From the Hall: Secretary of the Senate retiring after 39 years

 

Bernard Brady, the secretary of the Delaware Senate, has announced his retirement. With him is Joy Bower, the assistant secretary. (Submitted photo)

DOVER — Gov. John Carney’s State of the State captured much of the attention focused on Legislative Hall last week, but it could not overshadow one piece of news revealed Tuesday.

Bernard Brady, the much-loved secretary of the Senate, announced he is retiring after 39 years with the General Assembly. He received a standing ovation from senators and during the State of the State Thursday, Gov. Carney provided a shout-out to Mr. Brady.

“Bernard Brady is simply one of a kind. He’s beloved by everyone in this building,” the governor said. “He’s done incredible public service. I spent eight years as lieutenant governor sitting right above him, if you will, and he kept me straight every single day.

“I just can’t imagine this place without you, Bernard. Good luck and God bless.”

Aside from a few words here and there, the governor deviated from his prepared remarks only once: to thank Mr. Brady for his work. Mr. Brady received a standing ovation from the 150-plus people gathered in the House chamber for the speech, and Gov. Carney left the podium to shake his hand.

The secretary of the Senate is a well-paying job, with Mr. Brady paid $104,000 in 2016, but very few in Legislative Hall would argue it is not deserved. The chamber’s “chief administrative officer,” the secretary is chosen by senators and is responsible for, essentially, keeping the Senate running.

“The Office of the Secretary maintains records of official Senate transactions, handles the introduction and flow of legislation, send and receive legislative messages and executive communications, compiles and posts agendas, records committee reports, roll calls and the legislative journal,” states the General Assembly’s website.

“The Office of the Secretary assists the members and their offices with various matters as requested and is often the point of initial enquiry and direction from the public and within the legislature.”

It is by no means unusual for Mr. Brady’s car to be parked outside the state capitol even at night and on weekends: Mr. Brady is so dedicated to the job he keeps a cot in his office and frequently spends the night at Legislative Hall.

Legislation

House leadership on Friday announced the filing of a new sexual harassment policy designed to ensure any complaints of sexual misconduct against representatives are thoroughly investigated.

Introduced as a resolution, the proposal will be included in the standard House rules going forward.

“We are simply doing the right thing by putting these rules into place,” House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, said in a statement. “I am committed to providing a safe and respectful work environment so that any person who walks through the doors of Legislative Hall feels comfortable and protected. Our goal is to have this new rule considered by the House by the end of the month.

“One of the best ways to prevent sexual harassment in the first place is through education. That is why we are ensuring that our members and staff receive training on sexual harassment — how to recognize it, how to report it and how to prevent it from happening.”

The policy defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature” and states incidents should be reported to the majority caucus chief of staff, minority caucus chief of staff, chief clerk of the House or House chief financial officer.

Formal complaints, which must be filed within a year of the harassment, would trigger an investigation by the House Ethics Committee. Ultimately, the process could lead to the full chamber expelling the accused representative.

The Senate is working on a policy.

House Republicans plan to introduce a resolution calling for lawmakers to undo funding cuts to nonprofits in next year’s budget. The measure, set to be filed this week, advocates for restoring a 20 percent reduction in the grant-in-aid bill.

Grant-in-aid provides money to hundreds of Delaware nonprofits, ranging from fire companies to senior centers to museums. A total of $37.2 million was earmarked in the current budget year, down from $45.9 million the year before.

The 20 percent cut came as legislators struggled to overcome a shortfall of nearly $400 million last spring and summer.

“I am simply asking budget writers to make it a priority to reinstate the grants-in-aid funds to prior levels,” main sponsor Rep. Charles Postles, R-Milford, said in a statement. “The reductions were a measure of last resort needed to balance the budget. We are now expecting a surplus at the start of the new fiscal year in excess of $80 million. I don’t support any new expenditures, but if we have the means, I believe we must fully honor our obligations to those serving our citizens.”

On Jan. 11, a bill creating a new committee that would allocate grant-in-aid funding passed the House unanimously. Currently, the Joint Finance Committee, which is responsible for crafting the budget, draws up grant-in-aid, typically saving it until last and using what funds remain.

Agenda

Senate President Pro Tempore David McBride, D-Wilmington Manor, announced Friday the Senate will begin releasing weekly agendas every Friday instead of the night before or day of each legislative day.

“This is, first and foremost, for the public interest,” Sen. McBride said in a statement. “Everyone who takes time out of their schedule to come to Legislative Hall to visit, work, or advocate deserves as much notice and opportunity to plan as possible. All of our constituents will be better served when legislators and their staff can prepare for debates and the legislative process.

“Public participation and access is a proud tradition in Delaware, which is the only state in the Union that invites members of the public onto the Senate floor. It’s my hope that by being more proac-tive and transparent with our agenda, we can make it as easy as possible for people to take ad-vantage of that opportunity.”

The Senate agenda is available online at www.legis.delaware.gov.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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