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Lawmakers seem willing to work on some Carney proposals

Delaware Public Media

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle seem ready to give Gov. Carney a chance following his first address to the General Assembly.

That includes listening to what’s likely to be one of his more controversial pitches: tweaking the Coastal Zone Act to bolster economic development.

State Rep. Danny Short (R-Seaford), the House Minority leader, says Carney will have to walk a tightrope between those environmental groups that oppose any change and those, like himself, who call it an economic necessity.

“I think the opportunity is there.  There’s an opportunity to leverage money because some big players want to get involved. And I think it would be a benefit overall,” said Short.

House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf says he’s also willing to talk, but wants to steer the conversation toward  a bill House Democrats are working on. 

"I don't know what the final version will be, but the one the House is working on will [cover] only brownfields that were in use once before [as industrial sites].  Any prospective employer will have to clean up those brownfields and then put their businesses there.  And it not touch any new area that hasn't been touched before," said Schwartzkopf.

One area Carney is likely to find more solid bipartisan support is strengthening the response to the opioid crisis Delaware face statewide.  Carney in his speech called battling that crisis with increased availability of residential treatment, recovery homes, and expanded outpatient treatment services.

“We have this opiate issue that’s huge, needs higher level attention.  He’s committed to doing that and we’re committed to helping,” said Short.

But Senate Minority Leader Gary Simpson  (R-Milford) is quick to point out that doesn’t mean Carney will get a blank check on the issue.

“Certainly the opioid epidemic deserves greater scrutiny.  We’ve spent a lot of money on that and yet the numbers, I think, went up another 35 percent last year.  So I’m not sure we’re spending our money wisely there.  Certainly, we need a review of that program before we spend more money,” said Simpson.

Democrats and Republicans are also interested on working on prison related issues in response to the hostage crisis at Vaughn last month.

They seem open to hearing more about Carney’s plan to make Delaware's Economic Development Office (DEDO) a public private partnership.

"DEDO is about business, so why not have businesses as part of it and helping us to do it.  That makes total sense to me," said Schwartzkopf. "If you're trying to bring businesses here, why hot have businesses working on behalf of you in a public-private partnership."

"We need a redevelopment of the DEDO situation," said Short.  "As we move forward with that public-private partnership [idea], I think you see a lot of folks agree that something we need to do.  But on the private side, the money is going to have to show up to make it work and that is where the struggle will be."

But looming over everything is the state budget, and a projected $386 million deficit, which will likely dominate lawmakers time and attention.

There some battle lines are already being drawn.

"I have a disagreement with where the cuts are being made and whether they're really cuts or just paper cuts," said Simpson.

"We have a shared responsibility to make this work and make it work for many years in the future, instead of having to go through this every year," said Schwartzkopf. "We're all kind of tired of trying to find the last penny to put toward any certain budget issue."

Tom Byrne has been a fixture covering news in Delaware for three decades. He joined Delaware Public Media in 2010 as our first news director and has guided the news team ever since. When he's not covering the news, he can be found reading history or pursuing his love of all things athletic.