Posted: Jan. 23, 2003


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 State address. 

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. 

Industrial accountability: 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 said. 

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.” 

Livable Delaware: 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 approval. 

“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.  

Water supply: 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 said. 

Energy plan: 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.” 

Homeland security: 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. 

DUI legislation: 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 and trucks. 

“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. 

Fighting cancer: 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 public places. 

“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.” 

Character education: 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 process.” 

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. 

“According to 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. Minner said. 

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.”