10th Senate District hopefuls address First State issues

Name: Stephanie Hansen

Party: Democrat

Office seeking: State Senate, 10th district

Age: 57

Occupation: Attorney and state senator

Family: Married, five children/stepchildren, two grandchildren

Elective experience: President of New Castle County Council (1996 — 2001), current state senator (2017 — present)

Name: Christine Metzing

Party: Republican

Office seeking: Senator for District 10

Age: 56

Occupation: Teacher (private school) and doctor of internal medicine

Family: Husband, Michael, four children

Elective experience: Never in office before

Why are you running for this office?

SH: I am running for office to continue the work that I began last year to combat the opioid epidemic, make our schools safer, get the cost of health care under control, build on our economic successes as a state to bring in even more jobs and place a higher priority on a clean and healthy environment.

CM: I am running for office because I want to help Delaware families. I want people to have better job opportunities, affordable health care, safe public schools and improvements in education.

What would be your top priority if elected?

Stephanie Hansen

SH: My top priority would continue to be fighting our state’s opioid epidemic. This epidemic is a tragedy for so many in our community and it affects multiple generations of families. It affects not only our resources in our hospitals and doctors’ offices, but it is overwhelming many of our other related services like paramedic services, state social service agencies, our criminal justice system and our insurance industry. Because this issue is so vast, it requires the coordinated approach of the Behavioral Health Consortium and the Addiction Action Committee, upon which I serve.

Over the past year, I have sponsored legislation which has addressed a number of pressure points in this crisis (e.g. prohibiting pre-authorization for residential treatment, providing legal resources for people who believe they have been wrongfully denied treatment, enabling the creation of the Overdose System of Care, requiring insurance companies to pay for non-opioid pain relief modalities and others), but there is still an incredible amount of work to do.

CM: My top priority would be doing what I could to improve the lives of Delawareans, as I listen to the concerns of the people I represent and ensure that their voices are heard.

If you could change one state policy or law, what would it be?

SH: I would change the law so that treatment for substance abuse would be covered by insurance to the extent necessary to ensure a successful recovery for the person being treated.

CM: I would enact the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (Senate Bill 205) to limit late-term abortions being performed on unborn children capable of feeling pain.

What are your plans to boost economic development?

SH: While we continue to get good economic news like the major investments in the Port of Wilmington, Delaware’s economy is still recovering from the closure of our automobile assembly plants and the effects of the Great Recession. The two issues that go hand-in-hand with the biggest impact on our recovery are infrastructure and education. Government must provide adequate roads, rail, bridges, water and sewer service and fast, predictable permitting to employers as well as a ready and educated workforce. These are the basic building blocks to attract new businesses and help our current businesses thrive.

Our education system must provide career pathways for students and produce graduates that meet high standards for reading, writing, comprehension and problem solving. We need to be laser-focused on technical skills pathways in addition to providing college-bound students with the skills they need to succeed.

Christine Metzing

CM: The problem: Delaware was 49th in employment growth in 2017. Many good-paying jobs have been replaced by lower wage jobs, and this has contributed to median household income decreasing $12,000 from 2000 to 2017, the biggest decline of any state. Energy-intense businesses such as Claymont Steel, Occidental Chemical, DuPont Nylon, Playtex Paper Products, Chrysler and GM have left Delaware. Currently, the state government is our largest employer.

Delaware has become increasingly unfavorable for businesses with the Tax Foundation ranking Delaware 50th for corporate income tax rates. Our politicians have saddled Delaware taxpayers with millions of dollars in tariffs due to a deal with Bloom Energy making us less able to attract new business to Delaware. Our industrial electricity cost is 26 percent above the national average and industrial gas prices are twice that of Pennsylvania. A significant increase in electricity charges is anticipated due to proposed bills.

We should reform business taxation beginning with the gross receipts tax and develop well-thought-out energy policies to avoid further unintended financial burdens on taxpayers and businesses. Flawed policies like the Bloom energy program have led to repeated rate increases for the customers of Delmarva Power.

Additionally, I support decreasing regulations on businesses unless essential for protecting the environment, ending Delaware’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Exchanges and decreasing the requirement for renewable energy sources so we don’t need to buy this expensive green energy from other states. We should also avoid a proposed 25 percent increase in the energy tax.

What, if anything, should be done to increase revenue for the state or cut spending?

SH: Our budget challenges are driven by fluctuations in the Delaware economy coupled with demands for services, rising health care costs and reliance on unstable revenue sources such as lottery proceeds and escheat funds. For our future prosperity, we need to build a stable revenue source that grows as our economy grows. This could be accomplished by creating a more equitable personal income tax structure that protects the middle class which asking a little more of the very wealthiest in our state.

We should also look for ways to reduce state spending by adopting performance-based budgeting based on outcomes, taking deep dives into our most costly government programs and contracts to create efficiencies and eliminate redundancies and making sure that all vendors and service providers are providing their services at a competitive and transparent price.

CM: We should focus on bringing more jobs to Delaware and lowering school administration costs.

Do you support the legalization of marijuana? Why or why not?

SH: I am closely listening to my constituents on this issue and, to date, the desire to legalize marijuana has been overwhelming. I think that Delaware was right to decriminalize marijuana and I think that it’s legitimate for us to discuss legalization given the growing number of states that have taken this step. I also understand that there are a number of good faith concerns around the consequences of legalization that are not yet fully answered. I believe Delaware should continue to research the data and experience of other states in order to answer these questions, but my duty is ultimately to represent the will of my constituents.

CM: I would not support it because of the negative impacts experienced in Colorado after legalization. There are also employer concerns about the risk of employees being intoxicated on the job.

What, if any, gun laws would you change?

SH: We must protect our children and families from gun violence in schools, neighborhoods, public places and homes by coming to an educated consensus on issues such as illegal gun possession, family trauma and stronger penalties for gun crimes. Enforcement and tougher sentencing are crucial. I think we also need to have a serious conversation about the linkage between domestic violence and gun violence, which has been tragically illustrated in communities across Delaware this year.

CM: None.

Would you vote for legislation reinstating the death penalty? Why or why not?

SH: The death penalty is an emotionally charged issue with victims of horrific violence seeking justice and with social justice advocates vociferously objecting to it. My position has been steadfast to support the Supreme Court’s ruling that the law as written was unconstitutional. I would not support legislative efforts to revisit this issue.

CM: I have strong reservations about the death penalty, but I do believe that there are extreme circumstances where it might prevent risk to our correction officers and police officers when dealing with violent offenders with life sentences who have nothing to lose, as in the 2017 case in the murder of a correction officer at the prison in Smyrna, where three charged with the murder of Lt. Steven Floyd already had life sentences.

Do changes need to be made to the state’s employee health care structure? Why or why not?

SH: Health care spending in Delaware is higher than the national average and has historically outpaced the state’s economic and revenue growth. I voted in favor of House Joint Resolution 7 which authorized the secretary of the Department of Health and Social Security to establish a health care benchmark, the purpose being to keep downward pressure on the rising costs of care by identifying and addressing the cost drivers which translate into higher rates of insurance. But we need to do more.

I believe that by expanding access to primary care we can help patients get care sooner and at a lower cost. The result would be a healthier population with less reliance on more expensive emergency room care. We should also discuss expanding access to affordable insurance through a Medicaid buy-in program. Also, transparency in the cost of a procedure may be the key to getting market forces back into the equation. Today, patients have no idea how much care costs until after the bill is received and they have no idea how (or whether) to price-shop for procedures.

Patients are at a disadvantage from the start because they do not have ready access to all of the information in order to make an informed choice without an incredible amount of prior research. Higher cost does not always equal better quality, and without transparency and better communication upfront regarding all the anticipated costs of a procedure, the patient’s ability to keep their cost down is hindered.

CM: Yes, it is important to make sure that good health insurance is available for our state employees. The current structure puts this at risk.

What should be done to combat Delaware’s drug crisis?

SH: There is still so much left to be done on many fronts in this crisis. First, we need a more robust prevention plan. This would include requiring insurance companies to pay for non-opioid pain treatment, changing the prescribing habits of our physicians and oral surgeons and educating our children from a much earlier age about the dangers of opioids.

Next, there must be insurance coverage for longer residential treatment. We currently have open beds in many of our facilities because insurance will not cover for the needed length of stay. This results in people relapsing after a short stay and ending up back in treatment. We need to bring Level 4 NARR into our state residential treatment system so that treatment can continue within the sober living environment, we must develop a robust and consistent career ladder for peer counselors and treatment navigators and we must work within our criminal justice and court systems to get people into effective treatment programs, both in and out of prison, with wrap-around services.

CM: We need comprehensive insurance coverage for effective non-opioid pain management alternatives, and we need better compliance with mandatory drug education programs for Delaware schools and ideally implement programs that identify and help young people at risk.

We should encourage private sector development of in-state medical treatment and follow-up care for children and teens with addiction. I believe we need to work to fund and open the recovery school for which atTAcK Addiction has already secured a building and other support.

We should also increase the number of people getting off narcotics by increasing the use of crave-reducing non-narcotic medication and the integration of free self-help programs into medication assisted treatment. We can address problems related to the inadequate number of treatment beds available for connecting patients with follow-up treatment before they leave hospital emergency rooms.

Is there anything else you think is pertinent?

SH: As the founder and former president of the Bear/Glasgow Council of Civic Organizations, the former president of New Castle County Council and the current state senator for the 10th district, I have been a leader in identifying issues and problems in our community and I have been actively working on addressing those issues for almost three decades. In order to address the big issues we face as a community, tenacity and an understanding of the roles of the various levels of government, knowing who is in charge of which particular elements and having a working relationship with the people in those roles is crucial.

I have a track record of success in identifying the issues, bringing groups/experts together to find solutions, drafting legislation to address issues that require a change in the law and getting that legislation passed.

CM: Delawareans deserve thoughtful leaders who are committed to carefully considering the impacts of legislation on our lives and livelihoods. Visit https://www.metzingfordelaware.com/ for more.

 

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