DOVER, Del.- Tuesday marked the beginning of the latest legislative session in Dover, as nearly every lawmaker made his or her way to Legislative Hall. Although there was relatively little done beyond procedural measures on Tuesday, WBOC spoke with lawmakers about their top priorities for 2016.
More than anything else, the conversations gravitated toward the budget.
"Without a doubt," said Democrat Rep. Trey Paradee of Cheswold, "the most important issue is going to be the budget."
"We are looking at a shortfall in the revenue that's coming in," said Republican Sen. Brian Pettyjohn.
"We cannot continue spending in the state like we have been," said Republican Sen. David Lawson of Marydel. "It's just unsustainable."
"As always the budget is front and center," said Democrat and Speaker of the House, Rep. Peter Schwartzkopf.
Beyond the budget, each of the lawmakers said other priorities were paramount as well. Pettyjohn said that a focus will be on creating jobs, especially after the recent announcement that DuPont will be cutting 1,700 jobs.
"We don't want to lose them," said Pettyjohn. "We don't want them to go to other states. So we need to start really taking a look at how we're going to create an environment where jobs can be created."
Meanwhile Lawson said that education would be a hot-button issue. Lawson was a prime sponsor of the Opt-out bill that was vetoed by Gov. Jack Markell. On Thursday, the House is expected to try and over-ride that veto. In order to do so, both chambers will need a super-majority, equivalent to 3/5 of the total vote.
"If I think the tests are too invasive," he said. "Too stressful. Whatever the case may be. I have the right to opt them out."
Paradee said that cost-effective alternative energy should be a focus. Paradee is the chair of the House Energy Committee.
"Trying to make sure that we're doing the right things to support alternative energies and to expand our portfolio of energy sources," he said. "But at the same time we want to make sure that electricity is affordable."
Schwartzkopf said that it was difficult to predict, which bill would come first, since every lawmaker has a different set of interests. He said one thing he was trying to avoid was the adversarial nature that was at times present during the 2015 legislative session.
"Nobody wants to go through that again," he said. "I think we're entering January with a bi-partisan look at everything. Which is how it should be. As I want it to be. I'd much rather do things collaboratively, than to sit there and fight with each other."