Republicans: Use energy funding for clean water

DOVER — Republican lawmakers announced Thursday a counterproposal to a Democrat-backed plan to raise money for cleaning the state’s waterways.

The Clean Water & Flood Abatement Task Force, formed by a resolution from Sen. Bryan Townsend, D-Newark, and Rep. Michael Mulrooney, D-Wilmington Manor, has hosted several meetings to discuss a solution to Delaware’s dirty rivers, streams and lakes. At an April meeting, participants considered adding a fee of $35 to income tax filings, $75 to businesses licenses and $180 to the Gross Receipts Tax.

Thursday, Republicans proposed tapping into funds held by the Sustainable Energy Utility and the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control from auctions allowing companies to produce carbon emission byproducts.

Sen. Bryan Townsend

Sen. Bryan Townsend

Members of the minority acknowledge the state’s waterways are in need of assistance but have expressed hesitance to authorize anything resembling a tax.

“We’re all in agreement on the need for clean water, and there are clearly projects that need funding,” Sen. Gregory Lavelle, R-Sharpley, said in a statement. “The question is how do you pay for it? Before we go out and ask for more tax money, let’s look at what’s available.”

The plan, however, was blasted by Senate Democrats, with Sen. Harris McDowell, D-Wilmington, accusing Republicans of robbing “Peter to pay Paul instead of … stepping up to be part of a more comprehensive solution to protect our environment.”

“Delawareans should not have to choose between clean energy and clean water,” Sen. Townsend said in a statement. “They deserve both, and they should not have to wait any longer. This last-minute proposal fails to account for how greenhouse gas emissions ultimately affect water quality and flooding in Delaware’s marshes and along our coastline. A bipartisan task force has met for nearly 12 months and is prepared to recommend a balanced solution. I invite my Republican and Democratic colleagues to join citizens up and down our state who support moving forward with a focused, sustainable funding mechanism for clean water in Delaware.”

The Republican proposal could be filed as an amendment to the yet-to-be-introduced fee bill or as a separate piece of legislation.

In a statement, DNREC Secretary David Small criticized the GOP plan, stating “Redirecting these funds would sacrifice critical activities for combating climate change, while also being insufficient to address clean water needs. Solving our clean water challenges requires a dedicated and reliable funding source that doesn’t hinder other efforts to make Delaware a safer, cleaner state.”

Legislation

The House of Representatives passed a bill moving the state’s primary election to April, coinciding with the date of the presidential primary. It would take effect in 2020.
The state’s presidential primary was April 26 this year, and the primary is scheduled for Sept. 13.

Main sponsor Rep. Stephanie T. Bolden, D-Wilmington, said the legislation is intended to increase voter participation.

In 2008, 38 percent of Democrats and 28 percent of Republicans voted in the first presidential contest, but only 28 percent of Democrats and 16 percent of Republicans cast ballots in September’s election.

Rep. Richard Collins, R-Millsboro, was one of two representatives who voted no on the bill.

“As incumbents it’s not good that it’s hard for people to challenge us,” he said, noting moving the deadline up also gives potential candidates less time to decide on a run.

This past week has seen several bills filed, and with nine legislative days left, the clock is ticking for lawmakers looking to get their ideas turned into law before the 148th General Assembly comes to a close.

A year after allegations Planned Parenthood was selling fetal tissue for profit, a continent of Republicans has introduced a proposal banning the sale of fetal tissue.

Leading GOP lawmakers in August wrote a letter to the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services questioning what oversight was provided for Planned Parenthood of Delaware and whether the nonprofit sold any fetal tissue.

State health officials said the organization did not have a tissue donation program and was monitored by the department.

Another bill, which has bipartisan support, would exempt volunteer firefighters from having to pay for Delaware background checks, which are currently required for anyone hoping to join a department.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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