New bill would expand tax credits for some firms

DOVER — With the General Assembly set to reconvene next week, lawmakers filed new bills Thursday, including legislation to provide expanded tax credits for certain businesses. Created in part to attract the spinoff companies resulting from the merger of chemical giants DuPont and Dow, the bill filed with the backing of the governor and all four caucuses would allow companies to receive a full research and development credit and would provide a credit based on income tax paid.

Known as the Delaware Commitment to Innovation Act, the bill follows January legislation revamping the corporate income tax structure.

“As the pending merger and reorganization of DuPont has shown, times are changing,” House Minority Leader Daniel B. Short, R-Seaford, said in a statement. “We need to start carving a new economic niche for our state. This legislation, which will encourage research and development on the macro and micro levels, is a step in the right direction.”

Daniel Short

Daniel Short

Gov. Jack Markell trumpeted it as necessary to “support continued growth of innovative businesses of all sizes and well-paying jobs throughout the state,” and the Chamber of Commerce announced its approval of the proposal.

Under the act, the $5 million cap on the research and development credit would be removed.

DuPont and Dow have announced both the agricultural and specialty products spinoffs will be headquartered in Delaware, and the governor’s office pointed to the Delaware Commitment to Innovation Act as a major reason why.

With 39 lawmakers signed off as co-sponsors, it will have an easy time in the legislature.

Other legislation will face a much more challenging road.

A bill to open lawmakers’ emails up to public records requests is expected by even its main sponsor to fail, but that supporter believes the proposal can allow members of the General Assembly to “start having a dialogue.”

Delaware passed a Freedom of Information Act law opening up the General Assembly in 2009, but a provision inserted through an amendment exempted emails sent and received by legislators and their staff, to the ire of open government supporters.

Rep. Sean Lynn, D-Dover, the main backer of the new FOIA bill, noted local governments are not exempt from public records requests.

Rep. Sean Lynn

Sean Lynn

“FOIA bills are also known in some jurisdictions as sunshine bills, the thought being, let’s open up the blinds and get some sunlight into the room,” he said.

Citizens have repeatedly asked for more transparency, he said, and while he does not anticipate enough support to pass the bill, Rep. Lynn is hopeful the legislation can lead to changes down the road.

He also introduced a bill Thursday to eliminate the Kent County comptroller. New Castle and Sussex did away with their county comptrollers more than 40 years ago.

Levy Court has been pushing to cut the office, which commissioners said in January is unneeded. Its elimination would save the county about $150,000 annually, they said.

Current officeholder Georgette Williams is also supportive of the effort and plans to retire once her term ends in January.

Rep. Lynn believes it should pass with ease, although he was careful to note the unpredictable nature of the legislature.

Also filed Thursday was a substitute for legislation adding requirements for colleges in regard to sexual assault response training and reporting. The bill mandates Delaware universities identify employees who can provide resources and support to sexual assault victims. The revised version removes a provision in the original bill requiring the employee to call the police and leaves it up to the victim.

“Campus sexual assaults are crimes and they need to be treated as crimes,” Majority Leader Rep. Valerie Longhurst, D-Bear, said in a statement. “As a state lawmaker, I feel obligated to make sure our state is taking these crimes seriously and to encourage a dialogue that empowers more survivors to come forward and share their stories. This bill will ensure that Delaware universities are doing more to respond to victims of sexual assault in an appropriate manner and will hold these institutions of higher learning accountable for their response to victims.”

After the February break, the General Assembly begins meeting again Tuesday.

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