Posted: Jan. 23, 2003
STATE OF THE STATE IS STRONG
DOVER -- Cracking down on
pollution, preventing future industrial cleanups, toughening
campaign finance laws, fighting cancer, strengthening the economy
and infusing character in schools are among the issues Governor Ruth
Ann Minner placed on Delaware’s agenda in her 2003 State of the
Speaking to a joint session
of the General Assembly in Legislative Hall in Dover, Gov. Minner
noted Delaware’s position as a leader in health, smart growth and
state finances and called for state leaders to continue to make
responsible choices for future citizens.
“The reason for Delaware’s success – over the last two years and
over the last two decades – has been our willingness, our ability
and our will to focus on the future of our state, even when it means
making unenviable decisions in the present,” Gov. Minner said. “The
opportunity we have is for future Delawareans to look back and see
that we focused on their good, perhaps ahead of our own.”
Delaying most talk of the state’s budget situation until a second
address to the legislature Jan. 30, Gov. Minner on Thursday offered
a number of bold proposals.
Gov. Minner urged passage of bills introduced this week to hold
industrial officials personally liable for pollution and safety at
Delaware facilities. The initiative includes possible jail time for
officials who cause injury to people or the environment after
knowingly violating regulations.
“We must continue our efforts to focus on those industries and
facilities that endanger Delaware and, for the first time, hold the
individuals in charge of those facilities accountable,” Gov. Minner
Metachem task force:
The Governor announced the creation of a group, chaired by former
state Supreme Court justice William Quillen, to analyze the shutdown
of the Metachem chemical facility near Delaware City, which left the
state saddled with 40 million tons of chemicals and up to $75
million in cleanup costs.
“The goal of the task force will be to determine what environmental,
operational, business and financial factors played a role in the
Metachem closure and identify any steps we as a state could take to
prevent this situation from occurring again,” Gov. Minner said. “The
task force will also work to identify any other industrial
facilities that are at risk of becoming the next Metachem.”
The next step in the Governor’s Livable Delaware agenda to control
development will be a change to the state’s Land Use Planning Act
requiring state agencies, municipalities and developers to consult
on major projects before those plans are submitted for local
“This step would eliminate many of the last-minute objections and
changes that take place now and, with the consultation of state
agencies earlier, may result in projects that are more suitable for
the affected community,” Gov. Minner said.
Gov. Minner said she would release a plan in coming months to meet
northern New Castle County’s water needs by the year 2010.
“We have already begun progress toward that goal. The Public Service
Commission is reviewing last year’s drought to identify future
solutions. And the state, municipal water suppliers and private
water companies are working together to identify the steps that must
be taken to provide adequate water for everyone,” the Governor
In January 2004, Gov. Minner said she intends to introduce
legislation as part of a comprehensive energy plan for Delaware:
“One that will make us more self-sufficient in a world that sees
uncertainty, one that will nurture new Delaware companies that are
part of the fast-moving technology changes, and one that will
provide incentives for homeowners and businesses to take part in the
energy transition to renewable products.”
Gov. Minner said she would continue lobbying the federal government
for long-promised but never-delivered funding to provide fire
companies, police departments and emergency medical teams with
needed training and equipment. She also recognized the 383 Delaware
National Guard members who are or will soon be on active duty.
Gov. Minner renewed her call for the General Assembly to pass
legislation lowering the legal blood alcohol limit while driving to
.08 percent and to ban open alcoholic beverage containers from cars
“It is estimated that these measures will save lives, prevent
injuries and prevent the loss of at least $1.6 million of federal
highway funding,” she said.
The Governor said her budget proposal would include $5 million for
the first-year recommendations of the Delaware Advisory Council on
Cancer Incidence and Mortality’s landmark report.
“These funds will be used to begin early screening for colorectal
cancer, to pay for cancer treatment for the uninsured, to begin to
investigate environmental causes of cancer and to reduce tobacco use
in Delaware,” Gov. Minner said.
She also asked the General Assembly to keep intact the Clean Indoor
Air Act, banning carcinogenic secondhand smoke from most indoor
“Be proud of what you did for the people of Delaware and for the
generations yet to come. Yes, there are loud detractors, but there
is also a quiet majority grateful for clean air and the opportunity
to now dine and socialize where they please,” Gov. Minner said.
“That Delaware is one of the first states to care so deeply for its
citizens instead of being one of the last is to our credit, and I
want to keep it that way.”
Gov. Minner directed the Department of Education to develop a
“character education” curriculum for schools to implement
voluntarily and at no cost to them.
“As we develop
our children’s intellect and abilities, we should also seek to
develop in them virtues that are good for them and good for
society,” Gov. Minner said.
Campaign finance reform:
The Governor announced Thursday she would submit legislation to
better regulate “independent expenditure” advertising.
“I am talking about the
vicious, personal attacks against political candidates—both
Democrats and Republicans—by organizations with mysterious sounding
names no one has heard of until campaign season,” she said. “These
independent expenditures allow such groups to evade our campaign
contribution limits, buy the outcome of elections and worse yet, the
negative ads they pay for sour our citizens on the political
Gov. Minner said her goal is
to ensure that independent expenditure ads truly have no ties to a
candidate or party and to require more public disclosure of the
people or industries behind the groups.
Technology court: In
order to maintain Delaware’s status as a center of business law,
Gov. Minner said she would ask for legislation this year creating a
“technology court” within Delaware Chancery Court.
the [Strategic Economic] Council, ‘in the coming decades, we cannot
maintain expertise in law – whether in intellectual property,
privacy, patent and trademark, or the UCC – without expertise in the
increasingly complex technological developments involved,’” Gov.
Budget preview: Gov.
Minner said there is a $300 million structural problem facing
Delaware for Fiscal Year 2004, which begins July 1:
the fact that revenue forecasts for the
next two years are well below the current level of expenditures.
“The gap exists because the current projection of revenues next year
is that they will be less than state government’s level of spending
this year,” Gov. Minner said. “Add to that the largely unavoidable
increases to the budget from the mandated costs we see every year:
increases in Medicaid, increases in health care and prescription
costs, increases in costs for schools because of a growing student
population and increases in costs for our growing prisons.”
Gov. Minner will propose her FY04 budget and her solutions for
closing the $300 million gap in another address to a joint session
of the General Assembly on Jan. 30.
“I know how
difficult these next few months will be. Many of us in the chamber
were here in the 1970s and in the early 1990s, the last two times
our state faced a fiscal crisis of this size. We know that the only
way to solve the problem is together – legislative and executive,
Democrats and Republicans, senators and representatives – in the
Delaware way,” Gov. Minner said.
Gov. Minner concluded her
address by asking legislators to focus on the long-term future of
the state when making decisions this year.
“This is a
time of challenge and of opportunity. This is a time for a focus on
the future. This is a time to face the realities of our situation
and to work together to find responsible solutions,” Gov. Minner
said. “Newsman Edward R. Murrow once said, ‘Difficulty is the excuse
history never accepts.’ We face difficult decisions over the next
several months. Let us work together to prove ourselves and our
mettle to history.”
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