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First State lawmakers return to work with wide-ranging priorities

Joe Irizarry
Delaware Public Media

As lawmakers return to Dover, Democrats and Republicans have set their priorities for the legislative session.


Bills seeking to prevent gun violence are on the minds of legislators on both sides of the aisle. 

Senate bills to ban certain assault-style weapons, restrict high-capacity magazines, and create a permit system to buy firearms never reached the floor last year.

State Rep. John Kowalko (D-South Newark) is among the Democrats who wants them voted on.  

"All of these bills are good legitimate bills that have to be passed, they should be passed to protect the people. I'm not interested in offending or trying to take any kind of market share away from gun manufacturers, but I am interested in protecting people to the fullness of my ability."

Fellow Democrat, Senate Majority Leader Nicole Poore (D-New Castle) says a lot was learned at State Senator Stephanie Hansen’s recent meeting on gun violence.

"I've always felt that gun violence is not a partisan issue it's a bipartisan solution and so having that seminar was really good for all of us to learn the different hotspots not only just in the state of Delaware but also nationally."

But State Senator Brian Pettyjohn (R-Georgetown) hopes the gun bills don’t see the light of the day.

"The gun bills that are currently out there right now keeping them in committee. I'm hearing from my constituents 20, 30 to one against these bills."

As for the state’s budget, both Pettyjohn and Poore believe the state has to be smart and careful with the recent projected boost in state revenue. 

State Rep. Tim Dukes (R-Laurel) hopes recent efforts to save for a rainy day continue.

"Making sure that we run the state fiscally sound and I appreciate the governor's initiative in the past and hoping we'll do the same thing where we're putting money aside especially in a year where we're a little more flush with cash than the normal that's kind of a refreshing thing here in Dover."

Pettyjohn agrees, arguing it’s important to prepare for the inevitable time when Delaware faces and economic downturn.

Poore says while the extra revenue is nice, it’s not a license to spend freely, especially when non-profits and other groups cut out of previous budgets come asking for money again.

Joe brings over 20 years of experience in news and radio to Delaware Public Media and the All Things Considered host position. He joined DPM in November 2019 as a reporter and fill-in ATC host after six years as a reporter and anchor at commercial radio stations in New Castle and Sussex Counties.