Q&A: 20th Representative District candidates address issues

Name: John (Jack) Bucchioni

Party: Democrat

Office seeking: Delaware state House District 20 (Harbeson, Lewes, Milton, and the surrounding areas)

Age: 67

Education: B.S. and master’s degrees

Occupation: Retired teacher and business CEO

Family: Wife, Linda; three children and five grandchildren

Elective experience: Political newcomer, former elected national president of the National Association of Fundraising Companies trade organization

Name: Harry “Rob” Smouse

Party: Libertarian

Office seeking: Delaware House of Representatives, District 20

Age: 54

Occupation: Environmental technician

Family: Yes

Elective experience: First time running for elected office.

Name: Steve Smyk

Party: Republican

Office seeking: State representative, 20th district

Age: 53

Occupation: Full-time state legislator

Family: Wife, Judy; children Leah, Sydney and Gabe

Elective experience: Three-term incumbent, immediate past president of the Delaware State Troopers Association

Why are you running for this office?

JB: Someone new needs to run to challenge the current legislature which thrives on status quo. We are in dire need of District 20 state House legislation for funding responsible local change. We need state representation with the motivation to look for effective ways to fix broken local issues now. Yes, my neighbors are polarized at the noise coming out of Washington, but surprisingly, most of them are more concerned with what they were seeing out their front windows. To this end we need to assemble the political will to address the future in Harbeson, Lewes and Milton.

HS: I love living here — it’s the greatest place on Earth.

SS: Having served Delaware as a national guardsman for 7 years and a state trooper for 24 years, I have been honored to have been elected and work on behalf of the people of the 20th Representative District for the past six years. The voice of the 20th district grows stronger as my legislative seniority accrues. There is still a great deal of work to do for the citizens of Delaware and our district. I believe I have the experience to continue to be an effective servant to my neighbors.

What would be your top priority if elected?

JB: Safe drinking water in District 20.

HS: Repeal the gross receipts tax. It was supposed to be temporary anyway.

SS: Constituent service is my top priority. I regularly host monthly constituent coffee meetings, make weekly radio appearances on WGMD’s Mike Bradley show and otherwise try to be as available as possible. I spend more time helping the people of my district resolve state government issues than any other legislative duty. I have been a leading advocate for supporting state employees in their mission to serve the public with special attention to environmental enforcement and public safety measures with emphasis on corrections. One of government’s leading obligations is to ensure the security of its citizens. It is the societal foundation on which everything else rests.

We must facilitate reasonable change and smart growth by allowing greater partnerships with state agencies and county and local governments to address traffic and infrastructure and support the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control in the proper stewardship of our ecological and natural resources.

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

John Bucchioni

JB: A funded clean water bill to address and bring safe levels to the existing drinking water and waterways throughout the state.

HS: End “Midnight Madness” in Dover. Follow that with ending votes to suspend the rules.

SS: I would increase the salaries of correctional officers and probation and parole officers. Both groups are underpaid and it has created a ongoing crisis where hundreds of vacancies remain unfilled and we are challenged to retain skilled, experience personnel. Understand that we have nearly 5,000 inmates and another 14,000 offenders on probation in our state on any given day. Our chronic short-staffing among our correctional and probation officers endangers the safety of our prison system staff, the inmates, and the general public. Strides have been made but must continue. Investing in state employees is an investment for every citizen at every economic and social level.

What are your plans to boost economic development?

JB: Bring modern business and health care career jobs in to augment, not hurt, the existing tourist, retail, real estate and agricultural industries we depend on for the future of Sussex County. Our young Sussex talent pool is leaving due to lack of career opportunities and taking jobs elsewhere. This young talent exodus is unwittingly becoming one of District 20’s biggest exports. New businesses and health facilities are setting up shop outside of District 20 because, in part, the area is underserved by modern communication infrastructures such as fast internet speeds. We need fast internet now! This is an easy fix. These roads need to be fixed now for the coming growth.

Rob Smouse

HS: Get the government out of the way of business.

SS: Earlier this year I cosponsored legislation to create the new Angel Investor Tax Credit, which will incentivize investment in start-up companies in emerging high-tech fields in Delaware. This law is illustrative of my thoughts on government’s role in economic development. Government is best when it establishes conditions for the private sector to innovate and create jobs. To that end, I support continuing investment in supportive infrastructure (including improvements to area roads and broadband access) and reducing or streamlining state regulations that act as cumbersome barriers to those seeking to start a new business or expand existing businesses.

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

JB: I believe in a balanced budget. I would work to add to the oversight of the Office of Management and Budget and the auditor the discipline of monthly budget closings to see which department are overspending each month for corrective actions. I would make sure every department has visibility to their own activities vs what they budgeted for monthly. This is the way it is done in private sector accounting. Delaware’s public sector accounting has oversight, albeit only a few times a year. As a result, the danger of low accountability in spending contribute to year end surprise deficits or surpluses to taxpayers.

I would look at taxing out-of-state vacation homes where residents enjoy our lifestyle without the contribution of state income tax. Additionally, Sussex has 23 percent of the state population. We need to bring our fair share of funding down to Sussex County where it belongs.

HS: Prevailing wage lines the pockets of state union workers at the taxpayers’ expense. End it.

Steve Smyk

SS: I will continue to support the enactment of the bipartisan budget and spending protocols contained in House Bill 460, which I cosponsored. Supported by Gov. John Carney and a broad coalition of Republicans and Democrats, the proposed constitutional amendment would link spending growth to population growth and the growth of an index of goods and services purchased by government. It would also establish a large budget reserve that we could tap during economic downturns to maintain state services and functions, without raising taxes.

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

JB: Yes. 2018 is similar to the alcohol prohibition era in America. Instead of wasting time, money and law enforcement resources trying to eliminate this long-standing issue, legalize it and just create and enforce laws regarding abuse. People will take this drug, no matter what. Legalization will produce more independent businesses and jobs, and the government will generate additional revenue.

Legalization would help the government save costs and would stop biased arrests, which ruin the lives of many teenagers, particularly people of color. Marijuana is not a harmful drug. In fact, it is much safer than alcohol and tobacco, and it has medical value. Additionally, studies show traffic fatalities due to marijuana are significantly down after legalization contrary to remarks from the opposition.

HS: Yes. Sold, regulated and taxed, it will keep it off the streets and out of the hands of children.

SS: I have supported the control of medical marijuana in Delaware, but not recreational use. Since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana, that state has experienced increases in homelessness, drug-related vehicle accidents, crimes against persons and property and marijuana use by juveniles increasing emergency room patients with psychosis (https://rmhidta.org).

The revenue generated from legalized recreational marijuana constitutes only about 1 percent of that state’s budget. Given the increases in societal ills it is causing, I believe the Centennial State made a poor bargain when it enacted that law. As of September of this year, the U.S. attorney for Colorado is calling for repeals of the measure. I sat on Delaware’s Marijuana Task Force this session and witnessed Delaware’s medical professions, AAA, addiction organizations and the State Chamber of Commerce oppose this effort with statistical justification.

What, if any, gun laws would you change?

JB: I strongly support Delaware bipartisan efforts to ban bump stocks, with amendments for current owners to address their pre-existing concerns. I also think we should require a state permit to purchase and own newly purchased firearms and should limit the maximum magazine size available in our state and ban new purchases of assault-style weapons in Delaware.

HS: The Second Amendment clearly states “shall not be infringed.” The Delaware Constitution expresses that similarly.

SS: We made several significant changes in gun laws this session. We increased the penalties for those conducting “straw purchases” and banned the sale and possession of trigger cranks and bump stocks. I was the lead influence in managing key parts of the Beau Biden bill and House Bill 222, two statutes establishing new protocols restricting access to firearms and ammunition.

My part was to recognize those that may pose a danger to themselves and/or others preventing them from possessing a firearm. I voted in favor of all these measures. Laws restricting firearms must always strike a balance between instituting steps to protect the public while fully upholding the right to bear arms for self-defense, hunting and recreation guaranteed by our state constitution.

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

JB: No. It is morally wrong and there is a lack of evidence that it is a deterrent. Fiscally, this adds to the taxpayers’ burden with drawn-out appeals processes.

HS: Yes. Some crimes are so heinous they deserve the death penalty. Keeping a convict sentenced to life is expensive.

SS: Yes. I was the prime sponsor of House Bill 125 (the Extreme Crimes Protection Act), which sought to re-establish Delaware’s death penalty. I believe capital punishment functions as a deterrent to the commission of our state’s worst crimes. I also believe there are some criminal acts that are so atrocious that no other punitive action would constitute an appropriate response. Delaware’s globally recognized judicial branch has managed this responsibility far better than other states in this nation. The message this sends to dangerous criminal minds is of great value to the safety of all citizens.

I believe it was no coincidence that the James T. Vaughn rioters, many if not all of whom were already serving life sentences, murdered Lt. Steven Floyd after Delaware lifted this penalty as a sentencing option. This measure has a lengthy appeals process in Delaware for good reason. The taking of a life must be measured carefully and with compassion not just for the past or possible future victims of the criminal, but for the loved ones of the offenders. There is no doubt Red Dog would have continued to kill if he was left alive, but he has a mother and sister who deserve our prayers as well.

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

JB: Yes. Access to medical care locally needs to be fixed, given the lack of local treatment centers, high copays and long wait times to see local doctors.

HS: I need more information since I work in the private sector.

SS: Yes, in an evolutionary way. Changes made recently to bring the system into balance have been successful. However, I would like to see the state continue to take steps to encourage state employees to lead healthier lives and to be more prudent consumers when they do require health care services. Health care costs must be managed within the health care systems for our services to continue.

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

JB: Focus on the opioid crisis. Add treatment centers, track prescriptions and have all first responders, including police, continue to carry Narcan.

HS: Allow faith-based organizations to operate treatment and counseling centers where needed.

SS: Many steps have already been taken, but more needs to be done. The need for expanded treatment options are obvious. We have introduced Narcan as a life-saving antidote without the support services needed to actually save that patient from addiction.

Narcan alone and without ramification is a contributing factor to the death tolls. Emergency personnel regularly save the same person from lethal doses, often several times in one night.

Just five years ago, Delaware would involuntarily commit someone who was suicidal so to offer the patient help. With heroin, we allow the patient to continue administering their own lethal doses without offering mandatory assistance. Eventually, the addicted person succeeds, and we lose another loved one.

Narcan saves only the body, but once “saved”, the state fails at truly saving the person! This is done by following up with life-saving services and counseling to assist the person in fighting this deadly addiction.

Additionally, we should consider instituting anti-drug education in our schools and engage in a promotional campaign highlighting the darkest aspects of opioid addiction and all controlled substances, in the starkest terms. Changes in our health care system’s approach to pain management needs to modify nationally.

Is there anything else you think is pertinent?

JB: Based on the questions in this survey, versus constituent requests during canvassing, these questions are misleading as to what the local voters are asking for. These issues are all important, albeit more of the same kick-the-can-down-the-road legislation that is not at the top of the list in District 20.

The main priorities in Harbeson, Lewes, Milton and surrounding areas are not being asked above, misleading the public as to what constituents are asking for.

The real priorities in District 20 are state legislation to fund local clean drinking water, bring in modern businesses and health care facilities with career jobs to augment the existing agricultural, tourist, retal and real estate sectors found in Sussex County, provide fast internet and fix our roads for the coming growth to Sussex County.

HS: I’m a huge fan of the line-item veto.

SS: Delaware has done well with instituting the state’s new Animal Welfare Office, with Chief Mark Tobin. Yet, there is still a substantial statewide need for resources to provide community engagement, education and enforcement, much greater than the currently available resources for assisting our citizens with responsible pet ownership.

I am humbled by the faith that the citizens of the 20th District have placed in me over the last six years and I hope they continue to find me worthy of their continued trust.

 

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