House releases committee assignments as legislature gears up to convene

DOVER — Committee assignments for the upcoming 151st General Assembly are now set.

The House of Representatives announced its selections Wednesday, two weeks after the Senate did the same.

William Carson

Ten of the 24 House committees will have new leadership, most notably the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee. Rep. William Carson, D-Smyrna, will chair JFC from the House side, replacing Quinn Johnson, who retired. The influential committee will also have a new Senate chair, with Sen. Trey Paradee, D-Dover, getting the nod to succeed the retired Harris McDowell.

Rep. Debra Heffernan, D-Bellefonte, will remain the head of the Joint Committee on Capital Improvement, which crafts the annual capital budget bill.

New to JFC will be Reps. Kim Williams, D-Newport, and Dave Bentz, D-Christiana, while Rep. Andria Bennett, D-Dover, will join the five returning representatives on the Joint Committee on Capital Improvement.

In addition to JFC and the accompanying Appropriations Committee, eight other House panels have new leadership, most of which were necessitated by election results.

Rep. Williams takes over as chair of the Education Committee, while Rep. Nnmadi Chukwuocha, D-Wilmington, heads the Veterans Affairs Committee. Both had been led by Earl Jaques, who lost a primary this year.

Meanwhile, Rep. Bennett replaces John Viola — who also suffered a primary defeat and is, coincidentally, Rep. Bennett’s father — atop the Gaming & Parimutuels Committee, and Rep. Stephanie T. Bolden, D-Wilmington, takes over the Revenue & Finance Committee in his stead.
With Mr. Johnson retiring, a new chair of the Energy Committee was needed, and for that, Democrats selected Rep. Bill Bush, D-Dover.

Rep. Franklin Cooke, D-New Castle, was named chair of the Public Safety & Homeland Security Committee, instead of Rep. Carson, who will have less free time due to his new JFC post. Rep. Sean Matthews, D-Brandywine, replaces Rep. Ed Osienski, D-Newark, at the helm of the Transportation/Land Use and Infrastructure Committee.

The Sunset Committee, a joint panel that examines government bodies to determine potential changes, has Rep. Sherry Dorsey Walker, D-Wilmington, assuming the role previously held by Rep. Bentz.

The number of members on the House panels varies from five (Rules, Ethics and Administration) to 27 (Veterans Affairs), although most have about 10. Democrats, who are in the majority, control each committee.

The General Assembly convenes Jan. 12.