Lynn, Dowding offer responses to questions on the current issues

The 31st Representative District is in the Dover area.
Sean Lynn, Democrat
Age: 41
Occupation: Lawyer
Family: wife Alexis, children MacKenzie, Henry, Kate
Elective experience: District representative since 2014, previously Dover City Council

Jean Dowding, Republican
Age: 67
Occupation: Realtor with the Dowding Group
Family: Two special “adopted” daughters, a loving mother, four siblings, a cherished extended military and church family
Elective experience: Seeking elected office for the first time

1. What would be your top priority in this office?

Lynn: My top priority both as a legislator and as an attorney is to ensure justice to the citizens of Delaware. There exists an irrefutable racial bias in our policing practices and in our courtrooms — there is a national movement to start calling our system of criminal justice the criminal legal system, because there simply is no justice. Time and time again, we see that minorities are incarcerated at much higher rates than caucasians. Capital punishment disproportionately affects black American males more than any other demographic. These trends undeniably stem from a lack of upward mobility in some of our most vulnerable communities. To effectively reform our system of criminal justice, we also need to ensure quality education and safe, affordable housing options to our constituents.

Dowding: The protection of existing jobs and the creation of new, quality employment opportunities.

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

Lynn: The first singular policy that I would like to see changed — because it is so common sense, and we’ve come so close on it — would require motorcyclists to wear helmets. A figure published in May of this year claims that Delaware averages almost one motorcycle crash a day. There were 20 motorcycle deaths in 2015, up from the 16-per-year figure that prevailed over the last decade. The law already requires that a helmet be present on the vehicle, but the rider is not mandated to wear it. This past session, I worked to pass a bill correcting this legislative oversight with support from two families in Dover, both of which have been affected by a loved one who had incurred severe brain injury. The bill failed, as it had before in 2007. It is extremely counterintuitive to me that we cannot pass this legislation on the grounds of governmental intrusion, yet we require seat belts to be worn.

Sean Lynn

Sean Lynn

Dowding: I would require all state regulations to be renewed by the General Assembly periodically. Already practiced in some other states, this mechanism would provide legislative oversight of the regulatory process. Currently, state agencies have the power to unilaterally promulgate rules that often carry the weight of law, but which the public and our elected officials have very little power to directly influence.

3. Do you support raising the minimum wage?

Lynn: Yes, I support the Democratic Party platform proposing a $15 minimum wage. Delaware’s minimum wage bill does not go nearly far enough to account for inflation and cost of living.

Dowding: No. Delaware’s minimum wage was recently raised and it is already higher than the federal minimum wage. It should be re-visited on a regular basis to ensure it is fair, while not impairing the ability of businesses to remain viable and create new, entry-level jobs.

4. How can the state best create jobs?

Lynn: Delaware must continue to foster an environment that is welcoming to businesses of all sizes. We must incentivize small businesses to open up shop across the state, while ensuring that Wilmington remains an appealing home for corporations in the financial industry. Entrepreneurs from all fields must be supported, and we need to prioritize attracting graduates from Delaware colleges and universities to remain in the state as they transition into the workforce. To do this, we must invest in post-secondary education and skills training programs throughout the state.

Jean Dowding

Jean Dowding

Dowding: Remove some of the hurdles facing businesses in our state. Regulations are a big problem. There have been countless plans to start a new business or expand an existing business that have been abandoned because of added regulatory costs or because transportation or environmental officials would not grant needed road access or environmental permits in a timely fashion.

5. Would you vote for legislation reinstating the death penalty?

Lynn: No, I was a primary sponsor for Senate Bill 40, repealing the death penalty.

Dowding: The state Supreme Court has raised objections to our current capital punishment law. I would need to see how those concerns were addressed before rendering any opinion on such a bill. In general, I think our entire criminal code needs to be applied fairly and equitably to all.

6. Should the state make changes to its laws on marijuana?

Lynn: Legalize it. The state could bring in substantial revenue by taxing and regulating marijuana. From a criminal justice perspective, legalizing marijuana reduces the amount of non-violent offenders who are locked up and exhausting taxpayer resources.

Dowding: It is difficult to render an opinion without knowing what changes we are discussing. I support the current law that allows for the prudent application of marijuana to aid Delawareans with medical conditions that have not been effectively treated with traditional pharmaceuticals.

7. Should the state lower the tax rates on the casinos, do nothing or take some other step to provide relief?

Lynn: As one of the city’s largest employers, it is in our best interest to continue supporting Dover Downs. In addition to bringing in state revenue, Dover Downs, as one of the city of Dover’s largest electricity users, ensures lower property tax rates in the city of Dover. The city routinely funds its General Fund Budget in large part from transfers from the Electric Fund Budget. Losing Dover Downs, one of our best electric customers, would impair the city’s ability to provide some of the lowest property tax rates in the state.

Dowding: I do endorse reducing the tax burden on casinos. In the case of slot machines, the state taxes the proceeds at a rate-topping 40 percent. Other forms of legalized gaming also have exceedingly high state tax rates. As competition increases for a limited number of regional gambling patrons, we need to have the flexibility to maintain the viability of Delaware’s three racinos to protect this source of revenue serving state taxpayers and maintain the livelihoods sustaining thousands of Delaware households.

8. What changes would you make to the Department of Education?

Lynn: It is imperative that we revitalize the way our state administers education funding. Instead of funneling money into the Department of Education, we should instead guarantee that teachers have a livable wage. We need to control the bureaucracy surrounding public education, which can be done by drastically reducing the focus of standardized testing. We need to let teachers teach. To do this, we need to make sure they are supported by their administrators, and allowed to have some control of their curriculum and style of instruction.

Dowding: As a former educator, I would like the department to be more of a clearinghouse, facilitating the sharing of best practices between the state’s school districts.

9. Does the state spend too much, too little or the right amount?

Lynn: Our revenue projections routinely overestimate how much money the state brings in each year. We allocate more money to critical programs and new initiatives than we have available.

Dowding: I think the state is spending too much, outpacing the growth in revenues. Budget writers are already projecting a shortfall at the start of the next fiscal of approximately $167 million.

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

Lynn: We need to find more sustainable revenue sources, starting with the reassessment of property taxes. Using property values from decades ago, we are doing a disservice to our public school students and county operations.

Dowding: I think legislators in the next General Assembly are going to need to consider fresh approaches to taxes and spending. Incumbent legislators have not demonstrated an ability to do this. That is all the more reason to support newcomers like myself, who do not have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

11. Do changes need to be made in the state’s employee health care structure?

Lynn: As the largest employer in Delaware, the state government offers high quality health insurance coverage to its employees. We need to ensure that state health insurance options are flexible but cost-controlled, so as not to burden the taxpayer. I facilitated negotiations between Highmark and Bayhealth, which extended the enrollment period for state employees who were at risk of losing access to Bayhealth services under Highmark coverage as these organizations were reaching a financial agreement.

Dowding: Something needs to be done to curtail the growth of state health care costs, including Medicaid, which costs Delaware taxpayers about $750 annually.

12. What should be done to impact the state’s heroin crisis?

Lynn: Addiction is colorblind — it affects every family in one way or another. We as a society are finally starting to transition away from drug abuse as a crime and are now beginning to recognize it as a public health issue that affects individuals in every tax bracket. While there are treatment options available to those who can afford them, many of our lower income constituents fall victim to undiagnosed and untreated side effects. Not only do we need to expand access to treatment services and overdose-reversing narcan, but we need to promote awareness campaigns and support other prevention measures. Another consideration is that the majority of our incarcerated population suffers from addiction or a mental health disorder. To promote rehabilitation of both body and mind, we need to ensure that this at-risk population is not neglected in the conversation surrounding opioid addiction.

Dowding: Increase efforts in four areas: Education, prevention, enforcement and treatment.

13. How can the state best continue to fund road and bridge projects?

Lynn: It’s time to raise the gas tax. An increase of just pennies — even if implemented gradually — will help bring in thousands of dollars for infrastructure projects over the coming years, all the while maintaining Delaware’s gas prices as the lowest in the region. This flat tax yields out-of-state revenue, particularly in the beach towns and other areas that experience a high volume of tourists.

Dowding: The state’s Transportation Trust Fund is currently sound, with major transportation projects underway in all three counties, including the West Dover Connector and the interchange on Delaware Route 1 at Little Heaven.

14. Anything else?

Lynn: No.

Dowding: No.

 

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