Commentary: Delaware legislators, here’s your priority list

By Bill Bowden

My top priority would be for the legislature to get engaged with the ongoing pandemic and financial crisis response in Delaware.

Bill Bowden

The legislators should participate in a special hearing, during which the executive and judicial branches brief them on the “perceived” current status of the effect this crisis is having on our citizens. Legislators, based on information from their constituents, should provide feedback to the other branches about where citizens believe our state is falling short in meeting their needs. Their focus should be on identifying opportunities for improvement across the board, including any needed legislation, roadblock removal and additional funding sources to establish an additional sense of urgency that will accelerate our recovery. While Gov. John Carney and Chief Justice Collins Seitz have been doing a good job, we really need to get this right, and the legislature should find ways to help.

My second priority would be to jointly look at the expired legislation from the last session for possibilities to “fast-track” a new effort to pass this legislation.

Approximately 350 bills expired, with all the previous committee work being lost, which requires starting over again in the 151st session. There were almost 100 bills that were on the “ready-to-vote-now” lists. These bills offered hope of improvement in areas like minimum wage, health care, increased transparency, criminal justice, clean water and education, to name a few.

These bills were lost, as well, leaving hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of the completed committee and staff work. They should find a way to capitalize on this already completed work.

Given the importance of ongoing legislative and representative governance in the midst of the pandemic (or any emergency), it is critical that Delaware’s legislature put emergency plans in place to establish how they will function. These plans need to take into consideration things like information technology outages, weather-related incidents, power outages, natural disasters, fire (including wildfires), facilities management incidents, security-related issues, health and safety incidents, cybersecurity incidents, etc. The judicial branch and all agencies of the executive branch have well-thought-out and documented continuity of government plans. Our legislature should be held to the same standard.

Bill Bowden is a retired Verizon Delaware executive, past president of the Delaware Quality Award and served for eight years as the executive director of Delaware’s Department of Technology and Information.