Commentary: House Democrats getting work done for all Delawareans

There is a popular misconception that politics and government is broken, that we don’t get anything done.

While you could make the case that Washington, D.C. has its problems, when we looked back at the Delaware General Assembly in 2019, we realized that we had a successful year advancing initiatives of all shapes and sizes. Some of these efforts have huge ramifications across the state, while others make small but meaningful changes.

Every day, House Democrats go to work for you. We make sure your roads are paved, your air and water are clean, and that we are leading on issues that touch every resident’s life in some way. This past year, we have made significant strides forward, and we are looking ahead to an even more successful 2020.

Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf

This year, House Democrats have worked to:

• Reform our criminal justice system to restore fairness and equity.

• Expand voting opportunities to all Delawareans.

• Invest in our children’s mental and physical health.

• Increase access to affordable, quality healthcare.

• Protect our environment from pollution and waste.

• Create good-paying jobs and strengthen workplace protections for residents.

• Fund critical transportation and infrastructure projects throughout the state.

Several of these initiatives enjoyed broad support, and while it may not make news, work is still getting done to better the lives of all Delawareans.

Consider healthcare, where we passed numerous laws to improve residents’ lives and well-being. We created a process to allow residents to access needed medications without having to jump through hoops; we established a reinsurance program to lower healthcare premiums; we banned prescription drug overpayments; we expanded dental coverage to those in need; and we created a prescription opioid impact fee to raise funds for addiction services and treatment.

We joined a growing number of states that have raised the age for tobacco sales to 21, and we protected Delawareans’ access of healthcare by codifying parts of the Affordable Care Act.

We tackled the monumental task of significant criminal justice reform this year, passing 11 bills into law, many of which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. New laws include:

• Reducing sentence-stacking by allowing judges to issue sentences concurrently.

Rep. Valerie Longhurst

• Removing barriers to professional licensing so residents can obtain jobs in trade fields.

• Reforming the state’s expungement laws.

• Decriminalizing underage consumption or possession of alcohol or marijuana.

Additionally, we’ve improved voting options for residents. Our government works best when everyone has an opportunity to participate in it. Limiting voting to one 13-hour period on one day of the year creates hardships for many residents, which is why we overwhelmingly passed a law this year establishing in-person early voting in 2022, joining more than 35 states that offer this service.

House Democrats also led on issues such as prohibiting single-use carryout plastic bags at large and chain stores, strengthening workers’ compensation protections, increasing unemployment compensation benefits, raising funding for SEED and Inspire college scholarships, supporting veterans by expanding eligibility to the Veterans Trust Fund, approving the largest capital infrastructure bill in state history, and passing the Equal Rights Amendment in Delaware.

But we do far more than pass legislation. Our members are in their districts daily, meeting with constituents and attending community meetings. We listen to the everyday problems people face and do our best to resolve those issues, whether it’s connecting residents with state services, an overflowing drainage ditch, a nuisance property down the street, or an unsafe pothole.

In fact, those individual contacts with residents and civic groups are a major part of what legislators do on a daily basis. They might not generate headlines, but addressing a constituent issue and receiving a heartfelt “thank you” is a bigger reward than any front-page story.

Looking ahead to 2020, House Democrats will continue working for all Delaware residents by funding water infrastructure projects to protect our waterways and tourism, expanding access to voting, increasing child mental health services, improving our criminal justice system, and protecting our environment for future generations.

Rep. Larry Mitchell

We are working every day on issues big and small, but we need to hear from you. We encourage residents to get involved and make your voices heard on the issues that matter to you.

Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf is speaker of the Delaware House of Representatives. Rep. Valerie Longhurst is the House majority leader.
Rep. Larry Mitchell is the House majority whip.