2014 Del. Legislative Session Wraps up in Dover - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

2014 Del. Legislative Session Wraps up in Dover

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(Photo: WBOC) (Photo: WBOC)
DOVER, Del. (WBOC) - Delaware lawmakers wrapped up the 2014 legislative session in the wee hours of Tuesday morning after they started work for the day Monday afternoon.

Legislators did a lot of things. But this year was as much about what was not done, as what was.

As Gov. Jack Markell, D-Delaware, signed the state's budget bills into law, he talked about all things the general assembly did this year. Markell says lawmakers improved the criminal justice system, pushed downtown revitalization and enacted election and campaign finance reform.

And Markell stressed he's not giving up on two things lawmakers didn't do.

"I remain committed to addressing our transportation funding gap and what I believe to be the embarrassing state of our waterways," he said.

This winter Markell proposed a ten-cent increase in the gas tax to pay for half a billion dollars in infrastructure improvements and a water service fee to cover hundreds of millions for waterway cleanup. Neither proposal was even introduced as a bill at leg hall.

Senate Minority Leader Sen. Gary Simpson, R-Milford, says for a couple of reasons lawmakers weren't interested.

"No one wanted to tackle them. My caucus said there wouldn't be a gas tax increase or a water tax. I don't think the other side wanted that either."

Speaker of the House Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth, says lawmakers distaste for action on those proposals boiled down to constituent reaction.

"Ten cents scares a lot of people," he said. It scares the public. They were reacting to what the public was telling them."

Schwartzkopf says majority and minority leaders have agreed to meet between now and the start of the 2015 session to see if there's a deal to be reached on gas or water.

In the meantime, the Delaware Department of Transportation is raising the weekend toll price at the toll plazas on DE 1. It's estimated that will bring in about $10 million a year for road projects, plus allow for $20 million in borrowing.

One of the biggest things lawmakers did do Monday into Tuesday was give their final approval to a financial relief package for the state's casino industry.

The bill changes the way the state and casinos split gaming revenue. That change will return about $10 million a year to the state's three ailing casinos.

"I think the key is that the word "bailout" has been used. This is not a bailout. This is a tax relief," said Rep. Tim Dukes, R-Laurel.

Proponents of the relief said it was about protecting jobs. The state's casino employ thousands of people. But as lawmakers voted early Tuesday morning, they acknowledged there was no guarantee casinos wouldn't still end up laying people off at some point.

And the state Senate celebrated the one-year anniversary of the start of legal same-sex marriage in Delaware.

New Castle County's clerk of the peace told senators statewide more than 2,000 same-sex couples have been married over the past year. About half of those are in Sussex and Kent counties.

He also turned over the state's first same-sex marriage license to the Delaware Historical Society. It's for the marriage of Victoria Bandy and Karen Peterson, who is a state senator.

When the general assembly returns to work in January, it will undoubtedly look different. All the seats in the House and a third of those in the Senate are up for election in November.
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