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News & Updates

Saturday, January 30, 2021

HB 49

Passed unianimously by the State Board and sent by the State Chair to the sponsors and to the leadership in both chambers:
We are nearly a year into the Coronavirus Pandemic and there is as yet no end in sight. We have grown accustomed to what those in government and media are repeatedly calling the “new normal." Businesses remain closed or operate at reduced capacity. Restaurants provide single-use paper menus, break up large parties, and leave open tables between groups of guests. Most businesses require their customers to wear a mask to enter.

It is impossible to know how long these precautions will be warranted and difficult to know for sure if they’re even helping. What is not unknown is that the impetus for many of these changes in the State of Delaware can be ultimately laid at the feet of one man: Governor John Carney. The overbearing and invasive changes to our society were not the result of complex, voluntary interactions and negotiations among individuals, businesses, schools, and other institutions. They were not even the result of consultation with, nor of debate by, our representatives in the General Assembly who then, in their official capacity, updated the laws of our state to reflect the challenges of the times.

Instead, they have been carried out under the auspices of a “State of Emergency” declared unilaterally by our Governor. It is left to faith that he is doing so in consultation with public health experts and doctors, adequately balancing the tradeoffs between public safety and the economic necessities of survival in troubled times. Unfortunately, there is no accountability. There is no transparency. This concentrated power has bred an environment of distrust in an already divided nation and a divided state. Contrary to the exhortations to our better angels, we are not “all in this together.” Rather, we are dancing to the tune of a career politician many of us didn’t vote for and that many more voted for only begrudgingly as the least bad option.

This “new normal” cannot and should not mean that the norms of a democratic and participatory representative government are cast by the wayside along with our livelihoods, children's youth, family vacations, and ability to see the faces of our friends and neighbors while out in the community. The challenges we face may justify making difficult choices and limiting the possibilities of exposing vulnerable populations to this virus. But that is a decision we should all make together, at the very least through our elected representatives in the General Assembly, if not through the voluntary give and take of our everyday interactions.

Accordingly, a number of Representatives and Senators are sponsoring HB49 for the upcoming 151st Session of the Delaware General Assembly. This legislation would limit the ability of Delaware's Governor to extend a non-weather related State of Emergency beyond 30 days without input from the General Assembly, and therefore from the people they represent. Sadly, this bill is devoid of cosponsors from the Democratic members of the General Assembly and consigned to the House Administration Committee, where legislation disfavored by the House Democratic Leadership goes to die.

The Libertarian Party of Delaware acknowledges the realities of the political situation but hopes nevertheless that this bill will overcome the odds by receiving the committee hearing it is due and gaining enough support from our Representatives and Senators to become law. It is an unfortunate fact that this pandemic has become a political football for the dominant, dysfunctional codependency of our twisted two-party system. However, the single largest contributing factor to those circumstances must be acknowledged as the unilateral and unaccountable fashion in which the government response has been imposed.

Constraining the authority of any one politician to impose these restrictions on the population not only imposes accountability on that one politician, but also engenders buy-in from the legislative branch of our state government and by extension the diverse populations of our state and communities. We do not speak out in favor of HB49 because we discount the importance of protecting our health care workers and vulnerable populations from the ravages of this pandemic, but because in order for us to truly be “in this together,” we must all work in concert to develop the solutions needed to address it rather than be simply told what we must do, under penalty of law, by one man, sitting atop the executive branch of our state government.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Spike Cohen and the 2021 State Convention


The Libertarian Party of Delaware is honored to announce that
Spike Cohen
will be a special guest at our 2021 State Convention, being held on June 5th. Pending additional donations and the monumental organizational work of Irene Mavrakakis, we are hoping to have additional guests and events over the course of the weekend. Please contribute through the PayPal "Donate" button on the right and reach out to Irene to assist with event planning. Please use the "Friends and Family" option when making donations, as we are all family in the Liberty Movement (we certainly bicker like one) and it saves costs in fees to PayPal. Also, please include a comment denoting your contribution as intended to defray Convention expenses, which the State Board has authorized to be designated in advance to be spent for that explicit purpose.

Thank you!

Proposed Delaware Libertarian Education Policies

This was copy/pasted with permission from a post in the Delaware for Liberty Facebook group by former NCCo LPD Chair Steve Newton.


So in response to a relatively legit criticism that I should provide content rather than just sniping at what's posted here, here's a partial draft of the kind of issues surrounding public education that I believe Libertarians in Delaware should be running on. (Or at least be aware of.) This is not comprehensive, but it is meant to explore the kinds of issues, positions, and issue knowledge that libertarians will need to have be seen as credible candidates, while still advancing toward more libertarian positions.

I will cover four potential items -- (1) an elected State Board of Education; (2) School Bus Retirement Schedules; (3) eliminating the prevailing wage requirement for construction/renovation of school building; and (4) extending the provisions for Home Schools to Home School "pods."
The first thing to ask yourself as you read this is why libertarians would even go so far down into the details of a Statist public school system, when the LP platform basically calls for the elimination of State-funded education? The answer is pretty simple: State-funded education is not going to disappear in the near future, and most people are not even ready to have that conversation, much less vote for somebody who is saying that. They have not been trained to think out of that box yet.
These issues, however, are designed to introduce more libertarian elements into the existing system with the idea of, and once they are accepted and work, provides us with more credibility and visibility. The second part of the strategy revolves around actually introducing elements into that system that are inherently destabilizing for the system as such in the long term.
(1) State Board of Education elections. The staple idea of local control of schools, such as it still tenuously exists, is based on the concept of the non-partisan, elected school board. This is intended to give parents and community members final control over their own school districts through electing their own candidates to the school board. The local school board approves all policies under which the district runs, and has immense power to mediate against State and even federal incursions. This is, despite its inherent fractiousness (a feature, not a bug), one of the most directly representative entities in our entire governance system, because they can't even (except in vo-tech school districts) raise local taxes without a referendum.
However, the State Board of Education, which is supposed to perform similar tasks at the next level up, is not a voice for the parents and families in the DE school system, but a congregation of people appointed (often as direct political favors) by the Governor. The State Board has the power to set policies at the State level, and has certain appellate responsibilities regarding special education, charter schools, and a few other cases. It is also the organization that approves all charter school applications, and passes on statewide graduation requirements.
So why should not the State Board of Education also represent the parents and families of Delaware by being directly elected in the same non-partisan elections that select regular School Board members? There are a number of proposed schemas for dividing the State into voting districts for such elections, and the elections could be staggered (one third elected every two years) so as not to destroy continuity.
Who would support: most local school boards, anybody who has been negatively affected by Board policy decisions (there are literally thousands of them, because the Board has made some whopper bad decisions over the past decade), and -- interestingly enough -- the teachers' union. It may sound strange to find libertarians on the same side as DSEA on any issue, but they would be ... up to a point (I would personally support using conflict of interest rules to make it illegal for anyone who is an employee of a school district or charter school to sit on the State Board). Also, the Delaware PTA would support this idea (individual high officers have done so in the past).
Who would oppose: most Democrats and Republicans because the current system cements their power at the State level.
Now consider this -- libertarians statewide advocating in concert with the DSEA and DE PTA AGAINST Republicans and Democrats. You want to become part of the public dialogue? This can make it happen. Also, if it were ever to pass (I'd guess it will take about 3 years from start to finish), it would be significantly easier for a libertarian to get elected to that Statewide office because it is non-partisan.
(2) School bus retirement (This is a lower taxes issue). Right now in the DE State Code districts and school bus companies are required to stop using buses that are either 14 years old or have 190,000 miles on them, regardless of mechanical reliability. They have to be replaced. Interestingly enough, the industry standard is at least 17 years old and 250K, but several states have a "certified mechanical reliability" standard that allows buses to be kept in service as long as an independent inspector attests to their safety.
Just changing from 14-17 years for mandatory replacement would save the taxpayers about $60 million per year. Going to a mechanical reliability standard would save us close to $100 million per year in taxpayer-subsidized transportation costs.
Why do we have this system? Because we have an excellent private school lobby. You may not realize that, despite the existence of school choice and charters, Delaware has one of the largest private school school percentages of the school-age population per capita in America. I have not checked in several years, but back in 2016, for example, New Castle County had the fourth highest private school attendance percentage per capita in the entire country.
Where do private schools in Delaware get their school bus fleets? They buy them happily from school districts required to retire perfectly good buses at 14 years, and then run them for at least another 10 years because the DE State Code for School Buses DOES NOT COVER private schools. And they lobby their state legislators ever single time this comes up to kill any changes. Thus we have the interesting spectacle that your tax dollars are not only being taken from you to support "public" schools, but also to support "private" schools (who also get State-funded School Nurses, Drivers' Education programs, and all sorts of other goodies while piously declaiming their independence).
We are literally paying about $100 million in excess education taxes (carefully hidden in 3-4 different budget line items) to support bus fleets for private schools.
Big irony: this information originally came from a State-commissioned report back in 2008 recommending changes to public education to save money (or at least put it back in the classroom). If you recall, that was the year that Jack Markell successfully primaried John Carney for the Dem gubernatorial nomination. Here's the irony: BOTH men ran supporting the recommendations of this report (including specific reference to school buses AND the prevailing wage issue that is covered below), and BOTH became Governor, and NEITHER followed through.
Who would support: almost all public school districts and school bus companies, for whom this would be a huge savings; most liberal/progressive Democrats, and fiscally conservative Republicans. The private school lobby would oppose as hard as it could. The placement for libertarians is classic -- cut taxes, reduce red tape, improve performance -- while avoiding any extremism label by pointing out that not one but two Democratic governors supported this once and lacked the guts to do anything about it.
(3) Prevailing wage requirement -- one of the reasons we cannot fix Delaware's crumbling school infrastructure is that all major renovations or construction is REQUIRED, whether the contractor is union or not, to pay "prevailing wages." The schedule of wages is so high that the same 2008 report suggested that by dumping it we would save $300 million in tax dollars annually on school construction costs (split between State and local funds). That's 12 years ago -- estimates I have seen since suggest this figure today is closer to $500 million ...
This is great positioning against the deleterious impact of the construction unions -- at what point does it cease to make sense that a "carpenter's assistant" should be making $45/hour? According to the last prevailing wage chart I checked, the carpenter is supposed to be making $115/hour. The irony here is that most construction work done in the state of Delaware for private concerns is NOT done under prevailing wage contracts. And most of the prevailing wage work is actually done by out of state contractors, so the money does not even stay in circulation here.
The elimination of this provision in State construction contracts has been a hot potato that even DE Republicans have been afraid to touch ... but you can be guaranteed that it plays well with taxpayers.
(4) Extend home schooling protections to "pods" -- you probably don't know it, but Delaware is about the third-easiest state in the nation to set yourself up as a home school (which is something that has to be constantly protected). Now imagine if we could extend that to the creation of home school "pods" of multiple families, who would then be able to do things like hire college students to teach science classes (which is currently prohibited to them).
Why is this a take-off idea? Because COVID made a lot of upper middle class families start to think seriously about pulling their kids out of public schools and creating such pods in their neighborhoods, complete with hiring their own teachers ... only to discover that it's not legal under current DE law. This is the perfect time to get ahead of that issue and bring a libertarian idea to people who have never even considered anything but the R and D mainstream in their lives. But now they have seen how the existing system have let them down.
Equally cool, it would drive DSEA crazy and put us on the opposite side of this question while still making common cause with them on an elected State Board. Remember that the LP calls itself the "Party of Principle"? Well, education presents a unique opportunity, even in heavily Democratic Delaware, to walk that walk in a way that will get us support.
Ironically, such opportunities exist in considering transportation, the environment (did you know that something like 31 of the 50 worst polluting sites in Delaware are government owned?), prison reform, bail reform, and a host of other issues.
But we are outsiders, and we have to (a) do our homework, and (b) get down to work on these issues in non-election years, so that when you run for office you can say, "Remember I am the guy who has been fighting for the past two years to save taxpayers $100 million per year in school transportation while not compromising safety. What Democrat or Republican can say the same?"
Maybe I am completely wrong. But I have seen this approach in Delaware work -- and the beauty of it is that you do even have to win elections to make a difference.

Upcoming meetings in February 2021

 Dear Fellow Delaware Libertarians,

     Good morning! We have some exciting meetings coming up this month that you may want to join in order to get more involved. Each month, our three county parties hold meetings. Here are some updates for the meetings in February:

     NCCLP Monthly Meeting: February 1st, 7pm. Meeting on Zoom. For Zoom access, please contact LPD and NCCLP Secretary Dayl Thomas at ncclp1776@gmail.com.

     Sussex County Monthly Meeting: February 8th, 7pm. Meeting at Grotto Pizza in Seaford (22925 Sussex Highway, Seaford).

     Kent County Monthly Meeting: February 15th, 7pm. Meeting at Pizza Delight by Giacomo in Dover (67 Greentree Dr, Dover).

     Thank you for all the support you have given and continue to give. We look forward to seeing you at one of our county meetings and getting involved!