Delaware General Assembly starts second leg of session

DOVER — The second leg of the 148th General Assembly began Tuesday with lawmakers returning to the state capitol after their annual six-month break.

The legislators dispensed pleasantries, a new member was sworn in and all the people in Legislative Hall welcomed the resumption of the session — even if some did so slightly grudgingly.

Rep. David Bentz, D-Newark, who won a September special election for the 18th District, formally took his new post.

There was a positive buzz in the air Tuesday. Many lawmakers said the second half of 2015 had gone by practically in a blur and they were excited to return to the capitol again.

“Welcome back, and I’ll tell you, sitting up here, I really missed that beehive of activity that I’ve just been watching for the last five to 10 minutes. It’s really good to be back,” Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, said.

It was a day for greetings and celebrations with Rep. Trey Paradee, D-Cheswold, bringing a puppy, Rep. Sean Lynn, D-Dover, accompanied by one of his daughters, and Rep. Bentz welcoming five family members there for his swearing-in ceremony.

Little actual business was done, but the first day usually is reserved for ceremonial tidings. Business as usual will begin today with committee hearings. Legislators will discuss bills on the floor Thursday.

In a move not seen in 39 years, Rep. John Kowalko, D-Newark, plans to push an override of a gubernatorial veto. He is seeking to overturn Gov. Jack Markell’s July veto of a bill allowing parents to opt their children out of standardized tests.

All that will come, with discussions on the budget, the death penalty and taxes over the next five-plus months, but Tuesday the focus was simply on beginning the session, greeting friends and wishing for the best.

In the daily prayer, Rep. Earl Jaques, D-Newark, referenced the 1,700 layoffs announced by DuPont last month, calling lawmakers to remember those whose lives were “turned upside down by the receipt of the pink slip.”

Lawmakers paid tribute to Rep. Larry Mitchell, D-Wilmington, whose wife recently died.

“I consider you all my family,” Rep. Mitchell said.

Rep. Lyndon Yearick, R-Camden, was one of several lawmakers who said he felt as though he had barely left the capitol on the morning of July 1 when the second leg of the session began.

For Rep. Bryon Short, D-Arden, it was the “last first day” of his legislative career. Rep. Short, first elected in a 2007 special election, is running for the U.S. House of Representatives, meaning he has to give up his seat. He’s at peace with that fact, he said.

On Tuesday, Legislative Hall was the busiest it had been in six months, with lobbyists, aides, lawmakers, reporters and others in the building for the kickoff.

The General Assembly also honored the new poets laureate, Nnamdi Chukwuocha and Albert Mills, who were announced in December.

Dozens of bills will be heard in committee today, including proposals to formally apologize for slavery, change the state’s corporate income tax and expand after-school programs.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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