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Senate Democrats reject request for Supreme Court opinion on settlement funds

Delaware Public Media

In a party-line vote, senate Democrats rebuffed a GOP effort to ask the state Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of spending $28.3 million in bank settlement money without a vote by the entire General Assembly.



The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) in March split that money among 17 different programs, including housing, public safety and education initiatives.


Democrats defend the move, pointing to an opinion from Attorney General Matt Denn (D) classifying the settlement funds as different from taxpayer money, allowing them to avoid the three-quarters vote required when allocating funds to outside organizations.


But Senate Minority Whip Greg Lavelle (R-Sharpley) says that opinion is biased, since Denn helped outline how to spend the money.


“This is the legislative body, this is the legislature’s option in this and I’m not surprised that the attorney general would agree with the attorney general about appropriating these funds,” Lavelle said.


“It is unquestionable that he’s correct, it has been decided by a court of law and monies were awarded through a process in a court of law," said JFC co-chair Sen. Harris McDowell (D-Wilmington North), noting the the JFC vote itself was a courtesy.

Delaware was awarded the money through settlements with some of the world’s largest banks for their role in the 2008 financial crisis.


After the debate, McDowell issued a statement saying, “…[it] was nothing more than a Republican ploy to try to take that money from the people who need it most and preserve it within the state’s coffers in case it can come in handy come budget time.”


Any further movement looks unlikely, with Democrats controlling majorities in both chambers.

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