Senate releases committee assignments, Paradee chairing budget-writing panel

DOVER — Sen. Trey Paradee, a Dover Democrat, will chair the influential Joint Finance Committee, responsible for creating the state’s operating budget, from the Senate side.

Trey Paradee

The Senate Democratic caucus announced committee assignments Wednesday, about a month ahead of the start of the 151st General Assembly. With this year’s elections bringing big change in the Senate — four of the 21 members are new — the committees contain some shake-ups.

Most notably, Sen. Paradee replaces the retired Harris McDowell as JFC chair. He is the first new Senate JFC chair in 10 years.

Sen. Nicole Poore, a New Castle Democrat who was majority leader in the 150th General Assembly, will head the Joint Committee on Capital Improvement, which crafts the annual capital bond bill.

There also are a few changes to the committees themselves, with the Environment and Energy bodies merged into a single group, plus the establishment of a Housing Committee.

In total, 12 of the 18 committees will have new Senate leadership, not counting the Housing Committee.

“Legislative committees are an essential part of the lawmaking process. While floor votes get much of the attention, it is our committees that gather public input and determine which bills should move forward,” new President Pro Tempore Dave Sokola, a Newark Democrat, said in a statement.

“The assignments I’m laying out today give each of our members an opportunity to lead and, given our caucus’s new supermajority, the people of Delaware can be assured that our values will be reflected in the bills that come to us for a floor vote.”

Because Democrats now hold a 14-7 advantage after flipping two seats, most Senate committees will now have an extra Democratic member, giving them four Democrats and two Republicans. The chairs of all 18 committees are evenly divided between men and women “to reflect the composition and diversity of the caucus,” Senate Democrats said.

“Adding an additional member to each committee will give our members greater knowledge and stronger voices in shaping the policies of our state,” Sen. Sokola said. “These assignments put our members’ individual expertise and personal experiences to the highest and best use, and I look forward to beginning the new session knowing we’ve placed our senators in a position to advance the issues that matter most to Delawareans.”

From the Senate side, JFC will consist of Sens. Paradee; Bruce Ennis, a Smyrna Democrat; Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman, a Wilmington Democrat and the majority whip; Laura Sturgeon, a Woodbrook Democrat; Dave Lawson, a Marydel Republican; and Ernie Lopez, a Lewes Republican. Sens. Lockman and Lopez are newcomers to the committee.

The Joint Committee on Capital Improvement, also known as the Bond Committee, will have, in addition to Sen. Poore, Sens. Darius Brown, a Wilmington Democrat; Spiros Mantzavinos, a Democrat representing the Winterbury area; Jack Walsh, a Stanton Democrat; Colin Bonini, a Dover Republican; and Dave Wilson, a Lincoln Republican. Sens. Poore, Mantzavinos (a legislative newcomer) and Wilson were not on the committee in the 150th General Assembly.

Freshman Sen. Kyle Evans Gay, a Democrat from the Talley’s Corner area, will chair the Joint Legislative Oversight and Sunset Committee from the Senate.

Other notable changes include Sen. Mantzavinos heading the Banking, Business & Insurance Committee; newly elected Sen. Marie Pinkney, a New Castle Democrat, leading the Corrections & Public Safety Committee; Sen. Gay chairing the Elections & Government Affairs Committee; Sen. Stephanie Hansen, a Middletown Democrat, in charge of the newly merged Environment & Energy Committee; freshman Sen. Sarah McBride, a Wilmington Democrat, overseeing the Health & Social Services Committee; Majority Leader Bryan Townsend, a Newark Democrat, managing the recently created Housing Committee; and Sen. Lockman directing the Transportation Committee.

Committee assignments will become official when the General Assembly convenes for the first day of a new session Jan. 12. The House is expected to release its assignments later this month.