Written on: August 31st, 2012 in Recognizing State Employees
This week, we mark the unofficial end of summer – Labor Day weekend – with most people wondering where the summertime went. And, weather pending, it’s a chance for barbecue, baseball, road trips and other activities with friends and family. I hope this message finds you enjoying times with your loved ones or, at the very least, taking a break from your traditional “work.”
It’s important to remember, though, that the Labor Day holiday originally began with the labor movement in the late 1800’s. It honors the men and women who helped build and continue to build our great nation through hard work and diligence. It reminds us of our country’s core values – the hard work it takes to get ahead, the perseverance to do so and the responsibility that comes with economic gains. Every day, men and women continue to build and grow our great nation by the contributions they make at work.
So while you’re focused on spending quality time with loved ones this Labor Day weekend, know we’re doing everything we can at the state level to keep people working and create new opportunities in this changing world.
Over the past few months, I’ve signed several pieces of legislation focused on ensuring Delawareans have the support they need to find gainful employment, including the Veterans’ Opportunity Tax Credit and the Employment First Act.
As students begin heading back to school, we’re working hard to ensure their education prepares them to compete for jobs in an ever-changing global economy. Efforts like our World Language Immersion Program and the Early Learning Challenge Grant ensure even our youngest students are engaged and challenged.
As Governor, I have been fortunate to meet with the leaders of hundreds of companies and ask them how we, as a State, can facilitate their success. They all give similar answers: they want a talented workforce, good schools and engaging community activities for their employees.
In addressing their needs, I believe we’ve made great progress but our work isn’t done. Like the men and women who originated the labor movement over 100 years ago, we must remain diligent and continue working hard in order to keep Delaware moving forward.
Written on: August 31st, 2012 in Effective & Efficient Government
Labor Day weekend is upon us – the unofficial end to summer. This is a great time to look forward and I’m excited by some great opportunities for Delaware. Here are just a few.
This school year, Delaware’s first group of young students will begin learning in Spanish and in Chinese, as kindergartners and first-graders become part of our inaugural World Language Immersion Program. We have teachers from China and Spain working at several Delaware schools to get the program underway. As I mentioned in my State of the State earlier this year, this program is a critical part of preparation for the future. We know when these students grow up, they will be competing for jobs in the global marketplace and when employers choose where to locate jobs, they will look at where employees have the skills to communicate across markets. That will mean fluency in not one, but two or three languages. And so, we begin four World Language Immersion programs this year, involving more than 340 Delaware students. As we add programs, we estimate we will reach more than ten thousand students over the next ten years.
A strong educational program is one of the key things employers look for when deciding where to build and grow their business. Another is quality of life and we’ve been working hard to make community enhancements that not only benefit our neighbors and friends, but also serve to attract new business to Delaware. As part of our Trails and Pathways initiative launched last year, we recently celebrated the grand opening of the first phase of the new Auburn Heights Trail. We also broke ground on a runway extension at the Sussex County Airport, which will help Southern Delaware land more aircraft, and more job opportunities, for the local economy.
At a time of year when elections are very much on voters’ minds, we have made great progress in giving voters greater and more timely information. I recently signed three bills that make significant improvements to Delaware’s campaign finance and lobbying laws. One bill, the Delaware Elections Disclosure Act, is the most significant reform of our state’s campaign finance laws in more than two decades. Voters know they deserve to know more and we are making sure they will.
We also took a significant step forward recently in our efforts to combat prescription drug abuse and diversion, with the official launch of the Delaware Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP). Prescription drug abuse is the fastest-growing drug problem in Delaware and the nation. The PMP is a system that collects information on all controlled substance prescriptions from Delaware-licensed pharmacies and prescribers who dispense controlled substances. It will reduce misuse of controlled substances and promote improved professional practice and patient care. Most importantly – it will help save lives.
Written on: August 21st, 2012 in Effective & Efficient Government
We recently made significant improvements to the campaign finance and lobbying laws in Delaware by signing three bills that increase transparency and provide greater and more timely information to the voters and residents of our state. Here’s what they do:
House Bill 300 – The Delaware Elections Disclosure Act – is the most significant reform of our state’s campaign finance laws in more than two decades. It requires prompt reporting of third-party spending on campaign ads and requires greater disclosure from those who spend money to influence elections. In short, this is an important piece of legislation in our effort to increase transparency in Delaware’s elections.
Of course, even if we have the best and most innovative laws in the country, if we don’t have meaningful consequences for violating those laws, some people may not follow them. So the second bill I signed, House Bill 310, changes the penalty for filing a late campaign finance report from $50 a month to $50 a day and imposes the same fee for incomplete campaign finance reports.
Since 1994, we have had lobbying disclosure requirements that don’t tell the public very much. Our third bill, Senate Bill 185, requires, for the first time, that lobbyists tell the public what issues they are lobbying -what bills, what resolutions, and what regulations they are trying to influence. This is a powerful idea and a big step for transparency in the legislative and regulatory process. Voters will get to see on the State’s website who is working to influence votes in Dover and regulations that come out of state agencies.
At a time when elections are very much on voters’ minds, we are telling them loudly and clearly here in Delaware: you deserve to know more and we are making sure you will.
Written on: August 8th, 2012 in Job Creation
Over the years, I’ve had the chance to meet thousands of Delawareans serving in all the armed forces and fighting for us. One of my proudest moments as Commander in Chief of the Delaware National Guard came just last year, when I had the opportunity to go to overseas and visit Delaware Guard members in Afghanistan.
These brave men and women put their lives on hold and on the line to serve their country and fight for what we believe in. When they come home we have a responsibility to do everything we can to help them pick up where they’ve left off, which includes ensuring they have access to employment.
While, traditionally, veterans have an unemployment rate below the national average, that has not held true for veterans who have served since 2001. The January 2012 national unemployment rate among recently returning veterans was 9.1%, still well above the national average of 8.3%. Simply, veterans have had a hard time finding work when they come back from Iraq and Afghanistan.
That’s why I’m so grateful to the many Delaware employers who are working hard to give our veterans a real shot. To support their efforts, I recently signed into law The Veterans’ Opportunity Tax Credit, which will give companies a $1,500 annual tax credit for each recent veteran they hire.
But this is just the first step. What we really need is a partnership with businesses throughout our state and throughout our country who recognize not only the service that our veterans have provided but also the unique skills they’ve developed through their training and through their work. By working together, with our businesses and our veterans, together and collectively, we can make sure that we keep Delaware moving forward
Written on: August 3rd, 2012 in Effective & Efficient Government
I am now serving as chair of the National Governors Association having been named by my colleagues at our summer meeting in July. Since getting Delawareans back to work has been job number one, it should come as no surprise that employment is at the heart of my initiative.
A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities aims to increase employment among individuals with disabilities. Specifically, it will focus on the employment challenges that affect individuals with intellectual and other significant disabilities, including veterans that return wounded, and the role both state government and business can play in facilitating and advancing opportunities for these individuals to be gainfully employed in the competitive labor market.
About nine years ago, I visited what was then MBNA, now Bank of America, at a facility in Newark. There, the company employs about 300 people with disabilities responsible for a variety of tasks including making promotional materials. At that time, I met a young man, about 25 years old, who was making t–shirts. I asked him what he did before he got that job and he told me he sat at home for six years watching TV with his parents. A light bulb went off in my head.
This job not only offered him a paycheck, but significantly improved his quality of life. He had a greater purpose, the ability to be part of a team and to be part of something bigger than himself. And for his family – this job meant he had some place to go, something meaningful to do and support outside his family network. In turn, their quality of life improved as well.
He is one of many people with disabilities I’ve had the fortune to meet over the years. While they each have a unique story to tell, they have a common desire: to be included – to be afforded the same opportunities as others.
Coming off the heels of the NGA meeting, I returned to Delaware and had the opportunity to announce my initiative locally. What better backdrop than a bill signing aligned with what my chair’s initiative hopes to accomplish?
The Employment First Act aims to further help open the door for people with disabilities to work side–by–side with other employees.
Historically, people with disabilities have had fewer choices in what they did during the day or where they lived, and had therefore been more dependent on state benefits. The Employment First Act (HB 319) encourages state policies to give people with disabilities more choice and more independence.
Advancing employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities is the right thing to do, the smart thing for government to do and it makes good business sense.
It doesn’t matter whether someone was born with additional challenges to face or – in the case of our wounded veterans, for example – acquired them later in life. There are so many people with disabilities who have the time, talent and desire to make meaningful contributions to interested employers. What matters is what they have to offer and the tremendous impact this will have on their overall well–being and on the bottom line of the businesses that employ them.
If you would like to learn more about my initiative, go to www.NGA.org.