Vote Tracker

It will happen again.

Alternative Title: You are what you vote for.

Before we move on and cover the hundreds of bills that got advanced or passed on the final day of the session last week (a feat that will take some time), I wanted to address what happened with House Bill 121S, also known as the Seaford Bill or the bill that will let corporations vote in Seaford’s muncipal elections.

Former Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf promised his Republican friends downstate that he would get that bill passed. (Repubican Minority Leader Mike Ramone said that a promise was made, and the only person who could have made that promise was the former Speaker). And indeed, on Thursday, when the House voted down the bill by a vote of 22-18-1 (the bill, since it was a charter amendment, needed 27 yes votes), Schwartzkopf and seven other Democrats voted yes. Specifically, Stephanie Bolden, Bill Carson, Franklin Cooke, Sean Lynn, Sean Matthews, Ed Osienski, and Stell Parker Selby.

So Republicans reacted to the defeat like any mob boss or child having a tantrum would. They took their ball and left the House Chamber, preventing passage of any other bill Thursday night that needed more than a simple majority to pass, including other charter amendment bills and the important Bond bill that provides funding for capital improvements.

So that set up the stakes for the final day of the session: either the Democrats allow passage of the Seaford bill, or the bond bill wouldn’t pass. And Mike Ramone, who really enjoyed playing the mob boss role, upped his ransom demand to include House passage of House Bill 123, a Republican fever dream bill that would require the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) to obtain the consent of the General Assembly before it issued any regulations restricting the sale of gas powered vehicles.

I and others implored the Democrats to stand their ground and not pass either bill. Because I don’t like bullies. I don’t like hostage taking. The Republicans can’t accept that they are a minority in this state and country, so they resort to criminal activity to get their way, since they can’t get it any other way, like through moderating their positions so that they can win elections or voting in the General Assembly. They don’t care about the constitution, the country, the state, the democratic process or consequences. Conversely, Democrats, as the governing party, full of people in office who do care about such things, tend to look at a balance sheet of pros and cons and act for the greater good in such situations.

The cons of this situation, the Republican hostage taking of any bill needing more than a simple majority to pass, means that some of those bills wouldn’t pass for a while. There would be a standoff. The government wouldn’t shut down, since the budget bills already passed, but some construction projects paid for by the Bond bill would be delayed until the situation resolved.

The pros of the situation is that the Republican ask was outrageous and easy to understand, and Democratic opposition to it would also be easy to understand and support. Republicans want corporations and other business entitites to vote in elections. To outvote actual living humans who actually reside in a jurisdiction. Democrats don’t. The public would easily understand that, and likely take the Democrats side. And standing up to bullies, or criminals (which is what we typically call hostage takers) is easily defensible and guess what, popular. So it was a easy principle to stand your ground on.

Only six Democrats stood their ground. The next day, the House passed House Bill 121S, the Seaford Bill, by a vote of 35-6, and they passed House Bill 123, the DNREC bill, by a much closer vote of 21-20, where five Democats (Schwartzkopf, Bolden, Carson, Matthews, and Parker Selby) joined with 16 Republicans.

Newly elected Speaker Valerie Longhurst issued a rather indignant statement, reacting to the criticism that she and the members of the Democratic caucus who voted to pass the Seaford bill to end the hostage taking received:

“A lot has been said and written about Delaware’s capital budget in recent days. Let’s be clear about just how vital the Bond Bill is to our state. The Bond Bill is a $1.4 billion budget that funds construction, building repair and road paving projects in all three counties. Without this bill, road repairs stall, school improvements fall behind, and environmental protection initiatives remain in limbo.

“Unfortunately, House Republicans held up this critical funding bill, jeopardizing thousands of projects across the state. We as the majority party don’t feel it’s appropriate making statements in the press about not caring about preventing Delaware’s infrastructure from crumbling. We don’t get to take the capital budget hostage over a controversial bill rather than listening to the opposition. We have the responsibility and burden of governing. We have the responsibility of ensuring that we pass a Bond Bill and Grant-in-Aid bill so our state continues to function well.” (Emphasis added).

The new Speaker is gaslighting us here, and that does not bode well for her being any different than her predecessor. The Democrats did not take the capital budget bill hostage. The Republicans did. The Seaford bill got a vote. It failed. If Republicans respected the democratic process, they would respect that and go back to the Seaford City Council and work on the charter amendment further. They didn’t. They took out their gun and put it to the head of the Bond bill. Now if the Speaker and her Democrats want to defend their decision to yield to the hostage takers’ demands and vote for the Seaford bill to end the hostage situation so the Bond bill could pass, fine.

I disagree with it, and I will criticize them for it, but fine. I understand their argument and strategy. Democrats are good government people and this was a good government decision.

I would point out, in reference to my alternative title of this piece, that you are what you vote for, and that vote on the Seaford bill means many Democrats in the House are now on record as allowing corporations to vote in elections. There is no footnote or asterisk in the vote count on the bill explaining the vote. Democrats are now for allowing corporations to vote. That issue is now lost to us, for all time. But fine. You did what you had to do to get the bond bill passed.

But don’t lie to my face afterwards, Madam Speaker. Do not cast those in your caucus who voted no on the Seaford bill the first time or the second time as hostage takers. They weren’t taking anything hostage when they voted. They issued no mob-like proclamations. They just did their job. And you insult them with that statement above.

Such an indignant and false statement tells me that many in her caucus, perhaps even the Speaker herself, are embarrassed and angry that they had to vote yes on the Seaford bill. I understand that. I am embarassed and angry too, but leave out the false recriminations.

Many will say that charter bills are routinely rubber stamped by the General Assembly as a matter of course in deference to local officials. Well, perhaps the reason the General Assembly has to approve these local charter amendments is to put a check on local jurisdictions if they get it into their heads to pass charter amendments that are crazy, such as denying the vote to some residents, or allowing corporations to vote.

Many will say that some towns and cities already allow nonresident business and property owners and even corporations to vote in their jurisdiction as a result of previous charter changes in the past. True, but it was wrong then, it is wrong now, and the General Assembly should go forward and pass Representative Sherry Dorsey Walker’s bill banning the practice statewide. Bad things have been passed by legislatures in the past, all across this country. Slavery was once legal. Black people and women once were deprived of all human and democratic rights. Just because something was approved of in the past does not mean it has to stay the law of the land, or must be approved of by legislation again and for all time.

Many will say that allowing the Seaford Bill or the DNREC bill to pass the House doesn’t mean they will pass the Senate. True. And I hope they don’t. But we don’t know that for sure, do we? Indeed, Republican hostage taking has proven to be a successful tool for Republicans to get what they want. Perhaps their only tool. So they will use it again, especially when the Speaker declares that she will always cave to such tactics. So next year, something will be taken hostage again. Perhaps even these same two bills. So advancing them is not a harmless act. They are one step closer to becoming law, and we will have to wait and see what happens next year.

Eventually the Democrats are going to have to stand their ground on something. Eventually the Republicans are going to issue a demand to do something that will be so outrageous that they will have to. Maybe the GOP will demand that the House and Senate pass a six week abortion ban before they vote to pass the bond or budget bills. Perhaps that will get the Democrats to stand up for a principle.

But one thing is absolutely clear: this will happen again. Bullies don’t stop until they are punched in the face.

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

18 comments on “It will happen again.

  1. John Kowalko

    Thanks for your spot on analysis and conclusions. There is no excuse for caving in to unreasonable and illogical bullies or terrorists. Ramone and the Republicans did it before (minimum/training wage bill) and they’ll do it again unless there is a spine implant procedure be formed on the Dems. Carney should have publicly stepped up but he is hardly a Dem. I will certainly measure my support and funding by actions taken or not taken. John kowalko

  2. cassandram

    *Because I don’t like bullies. I don’t like hostage taking.*

    There’s an astonishing amount of privilege in this post. The privilege of being able to prioritize your purity politics over making sure that the State runs and can make its investments in running. You may not need repairs and renovations in a school, but plenty of Delawareans do. You may not need affordable housing, but plenty of Delawareans do. You may not care about repairs to roads, but plenty of Delawareans do.

    No one likes bullying or hostage taking and the GOP was spectacularly shitty on this point. Allowing corporations vote in local elections is not new here and some of the loudest voices for purity on this issue voted for these charter changes in the past. Not because they wanted that to happen, but because they bought into the process at the time — a process that made municipal charter changes basically a pro forma vote. So all of this purity at the expense of Delaware’s government running is brand spanking new.

    Democrats are the majority here and are responsible for not just operation of government but for good government. The solution that got the Bond Bill passed AND the Seaford voting bill shelved is how you make government work. And instead of doing this useless purity thing, you should be organizing the biggest push to pass Rep. SDW’s bill to outlaw corporate voting next session. You should be working on figuring out how to withdraw the current rights for corporate voting in some of our cities. You should be working on increasing the Dem majority in the House so this hostage taking is no longer a possibility.

    This fight over corporate voting sends a signal everywhere that the GA is no longer going to just let these fly through the GA. It also tells Delawareans who rely on the investments from the Bond Bill that Democrats will find a way past GOP foolishness to deliver what Delawareans want from their government. Purity politics makes a handful of people in this state feel like their ideals are met, but that comes at the expense of all of the Delawareans we need to vote for Democrats. You might have had your purity, but not a single road gets fixed and you absolutely know what voters are motivated by. House members who changed their votes to safeguard the Bond Bill did a difficult thing, but the right thing. Because making Delaware’s government work for the many is far more important that demands for purity.

  3. Delaware Dem

    Where is your line? Do we have to sacrifice everything at the altar of the Bond Bill? So next year, you are fine with them demanding permitless concealed carry, 6 week abortion ban, and the Seaford bill passing with Democratic votes through the House and Senate just so long as the Bond bill passes. Please.

    • cassandram

      There is a difference between demanding and getting. As long as they don’t get what they are demanding, I don’t know why I would care.

      I mean, where is *your* line? The GA has been voting to approve municipal charters to allow various types of corporate voting for quite some time. Are you going to do a retroactive purity thing on those Reps?

      • Delaware Dem

        I’m not imposing a purity test. I am raising an alarm. The Republicans have now done this twice now, and with Speaker Val’s statement, there is no reason to think they won’t do it every year from now on. We are lucky this year that we had already passed the Budget Bills before they took their hostage. Eventually, they will get smarter, and have hostage demands for every money bill separately. The whole point of this post is that they will do it again, and the Dems are going to have to get it into their heads that they are going to have to stand up to it eventually.

        • cassandram

          “I and others implored the Democrats to stand their ground and not pass either bill. Because I don’t like bullies. I don’t like hostage taking. The Republicans can’t accept that they are a minority in this state and country, so they resort to criminal activity to get their way, since they can’t get it any other way, like through moderating their positions so that they can win elections or voting in the General Assembly. ”

          This is exactly what purity tests looks like. We already know that the GOP is here to break as much as possible. And we also know that the Dems are responsible for government. We should talk about how the Seaford bill was scheduled. We should talk about how the GOP would vote for the cop focused bill that came before the Bond Bill. Wonder why they didn’t hold that one hostage?

          Of course the GOP will work at breaking things and undermining the lives we lead here. Not a surprise. If they can take a bill hostage, they will and part of the Speaker’s job is to head that off at the pass as best as possible. You set up bills for votes in a way that doesn’t expose them to GOP fuckery as best as possible. And if cutting off GOP fuckery means voting for their bullshit so it is no longer available as a hostage so that bigger, more important things get done, you do that.

          A reminder that the Bond Bill is set for the Governor’s signature. Seaford corporate voting is not.

          • The Miz

            “And if cutting off GOP fuckery means voting for their bullshit so it is no longer available as a hostage so that bigger, more important things get done, you do that.”

            So, if the GOP demanded that a 6 week abortion ban be passed out of the legislature and signed, you’d be in favor that? I mean in fairness to you they would no longer take that issue hostage “so that bigger, more important things get done”.

            Sorry, but DelawareDem is right eventually you need to take a stand. The argument you give is almost indistinguishable from the BS that Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema give for being grifters and justifying their corruption.

            There’s nothing “pure” about asking for your representatives to represent you. It’s quite literally their job, and I find it disingenuous and quite honestly slimy that there are some trying to justify political cowardice by hiding behind our most vulnerable communities.

            • cassandram

              So now we are in the whataboutism part of this convo. A 6 week abortion ban wouldn’t even get out of committee in this GA. Period. So there goes your silly hypothetical.

              It is very important to remember that there are 2 parts to the General Assembly. I want my representatives to put aside their privilege and vote for the many of us. Which is what the House did. Vote to move this bill to the Senate where it died this session. And made sure the Bond Bill gets to the Governor’s desk.

              I am completely not interested in fighting for purity on a vote that LITERALLY passed the problem to the Senate to was really clear they were not taking it up.

              And I wish I could say I was stunned by the hypocrisy here. Some of your champions on this thing voted for previous charter changes for other municipalities who have corporate voting.

              • John Kowalko

                Correction: we voted against corporate voting in. Charter changes in Newark and Rehoboth. John Kowalko

                • Bill DM

                  Where? I went back through the last 16 years of Newark and Rehoboth charter changes and couldn’t find such a bill. Happy to be wrong here, but only related bills I saw was House Bill 34 and your House Bill 109 in 2019. Nothing of voting against a charter bill.

                  • John Kowalko

                    My point was, contrary to Cassandra’s allegation, that we did not vote in Charter changes that gave nonpersons the right to vote. We did, in fact, take away the voting rights of nonpersons in Rehoboth (over Pete’s objections) and Newark where Baumbach and I got City Council to pass a resolution to that effect. John Kowalko

                    • Without taking sides in the fight — I tend toward Cassandra’s position of pragmatism, but I also think the GOP was bluffing, because they would have been blamed for fucking over all those Bond Bill recipients — please not that the Fenwick bill was passed by the 144th General Assembly, which had a majority Republican House.

                      You take a stand when you have the votes, you don’t when you don’t.

  4. butrfly

    What’s done is done. Those who no longer want to donate don’t have too but then again would we like a republican to replace Rep’s like Morrison and Anton-Wilson? And there are quite a few max donors that just may not and that is anyone’s prerogative. Everyone keeps speaking in terms of the Bond bill and rarely GIA is mentioned. Does everyone know what that funds? Sexual and Domestic Violence victim services and housing for the homeless and these are just a couple things the non-profits do. I believe the democrats in both chambers worked this and that was strategic. In the end the Dems got what they wanted and needed. Yes it will happen again and there are two Rep candidates getting competitive races so let’s get them elected (donate, make calls, knock doors) so we don’t need to play these games and they have no leverage. And every Dem should be a sponsor on SDW bill to end even the notion of this in DE.

  5. “the DNREC bill, by a much closer vote of 21-20, where five Democats (Schwartzkopf, Bolden, Carson, Matthews, and Parker Selby) joined with 16 Republicans.”

    There are only 15 Republicans in the House, I think you may have missed a Democrat that voted for it.

  6. Tsk tsk, DD and JK. You know darn well that playing hardball is not the Delaware Way.

    If you keep standing on principle, next thing you know you’ll want Delaware to get out of the tax haven/money laundering business.

    What everyone keeps ignoring: Seaford didn’t ask for this on principle. Somebody wanted this, for a specific reason that the public remains in the dark about. Instead of a purity fight, howzabout somebody check into the back story on this?

    • John Kowalko

      Refusing to violate one’s own “principles” is not and has never been a “purity” test. It is an “honesty” test however. My support requires honesty and an inviolate commitment to principles and that’s not negotiable. Former Rep. John Kowalko

  7. John Kowalko

    Touche” but two wrongs do not make a right. I hope we’ve learned some lessons in the 15 years since that vote and have corrected course with the cities of Newark and Rehoboth. Giving in to minority party bullies is unprincipled and often inexcusable.
    John Kowalko

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