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June 26, 1998     Cape Gazette
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June 26, 1998
 

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14 - CAPE GAZETTE, Friday, June 26 - July 2, 1998 139th's final days: Revenue sharing may rise; deregulation unplugged By Rosanne Pack The weather has appropriately taken on a summer sizzle as do- ings under the dome heat up in Dover; action is fast and furious as legislators dash for the June 30 deadline for the 139th General Assembly. Although most elected officials expect a lot to happen in the re- maining days of the session, there is a lot of conversation regarding what is not going to happen this year. Two major pieces of legisla- tion that will probably be put in mothballs and trotted out again next season are a bill that would eliminate local property taxes and have the state pay for public edu- cation and one that would allow restructuring and deregulation of the way that electric utilities do business in Delaware. Another biggie, a property transfer tax maneuver that would result in a form of revenue shar- ing, is still alive and many are pre- dicting that it will pass the Senate before midnight June 30. The bill, which unanimously passed the house, would shift 0.5 percent of the state's share of the 3 percent property transfer tax to the coun- ties or municipalities. Currently, the state collects 2 percent and the municipalities gets ! percent. Sen. George Bunting, D- Bethany Beach, expects the bill to pass, but he sees it being used as a bargaining tool until the last minute. Local legislators agree that the school funding bill and electric deregulation bill probably have futures, but as of now, they are too big to be rushed through without more study and public input. The bill that would have the state as- suming $250 million more in school costs would eliminate the need for local districts to hold ref- erendums to raise funds for dis- trict expenses. Funds from the state revenue surplus, currently estimated as more than $432 mil- lion, would be used to provide 100 percent funding for schools. The bill unanimously passed the House of Representatives, howev- er, it is unlikely that it will make it through the Senate this year. Bunting is the bill's lead spon- sor in the Senate, and he thinks that there is little chance that it will come up for a vote before the final gavel next week. "I obviously think that it's an idea with a lot of merit," Bunting said, "but we need more discus- sion on something of this magni- tude, and I don't believe we have the time to do it before next week. "It's a good concept, but it must be thoroughly discussed." Rep. Shirley Price, D-Millville, agreed, saying, "It might be the way to go, but we definitely need more time with it. We cannot even anticipate the consequences for the dis- tricts and the state at this time. "The mon- ey is there PRICE now, but what if we have some bad years?" JACK LINGO Cristaldi , 227-3883 REALTOR 227-2988 Home Deregulation derailed Electric deregulation will also wait for more study and probably public hearings. At issue with the governor's office and many legis- lators is whether or not Delaware consumers will benefit from open- ing the electric market with dereg- ulation. Carper feels that utility costs are reasonable in the state and he is concerned that the long- range effect could even be in- creased prices. Bunting and Price are also of a mind to look proposals over very carefully and to watch what is happening in states with deregulation. "We have to make sure we are actual- ly going to save the con- sumers mon- ey," Price BUNTING said. "The governor didn't support it and we need to see the reasons for that." "It's a complicated issue," Bunting said. "I have been look- ing at graphs and Delaware is in pretty good shape when it comes to electric rates. Also, I have been talking to people who are in the know and they say, 'Go slow. Don't rush into this.' "This is a case where we don't want to be first or second. Let's let some other states get some experi- ence, and we'll benefit from that." The future of most bills that are based on using revenue surplus rests with a special committee that is negotiating major financial is- sues. Elected officials were at odds over the composition of the com- mittee last week, holding up dis- cussion and decision making; however, committee membership has been resolved. Elected officials agreed to re- group and operate under the origi- nal plan of having an eight-mem- ber committee, two from each caucus, and they are off and meet- ing. School class size bills multiply; Schroeder sees passing grades By Rosanne Pack Rep. John Schroeder, D-Lewes, is one of many who think a good portion of the $432+ million rev- enue surplus should end up help- ing education, but his interest lies primarily in the fate of bills that would lower the number of stu- dents in classrooms in grades kindergarten through third grade. As of last week, both the House and the Senate passed lower class- size bills that were the same, but different; now, elected officials on each side of Legislative Hall have divvied up the duties and re- worked the bills into three sepa- rate pieces of legislation. Schroeder said, "This is truly a bipartisan, joint effort, and even if we only have two days left, we are going to pass this. It is win-win for all of us, especially the chil- dren." The representative said House members are reworking their ver- sion of the class size re- duction bill so that it will deal primarily with the num- ber of stu- dents per class and the equation and timeframe for reducing the SCHROEDER four grades over a period of years. Senate sponsors are redoing bills as well, and will draft one that will deal with funding tbr construction required to serve smaller, but more numerous, classes and one that deals with determining the unit size of classes. The original House version, sponsored by Schroeder; Rep. Timothy Bouiden, R-Newark West; and Rep. Stephanie UI- brich, R-Newark South; included a provision for the state funding additional construction and teach- ers' aides that would be required by decreasing class size. State rev- enue surplus money would supply the funding, but the estimates for a two-year time span put the cost at less than $50 million. With the new, joint, bipartisan effort in action, Schroeder said the sponsors are working with mem- bers of the Carper administration to determine exactly how the con- struction and staffing costs will be shared. "We have to go back through the committee process, but every- one warfts this, it will just be a matter of passing the new, re- worked bills through," he said. "'It's going to happen." Price is optimistic that her legis- lation that would make the Alco- holic Beverage Control Commis- sion more accountable to the pub- lic will pass the Senate within the remaining two days of the session. Bunting said that the bill has a good shot of making it through and going to the governor for his signature; it passed the House unanimously. The bill would require more !o- cally advertised notice of applica- tions and hearings regarding li- censes to sell alcohol, and give more weight to public comment regarding such applications and proposals. Price has seen one of her latest bills pass on Carper's desk in the waning days of the session. Her bill to allow non-residents to reg- ister a motor vehicle in Delaware Continued on page 15 I The 3 L's in Real Estate! LiSt wirh LOU .,. Lzngo's Lowest Priced Homes Intown $119,500 Ocean Block $375,000 Coming July 10 & 11 The Four Tops "Reach Out, Ill Be There" ORDER For Uckets call 302-674-4600, ext. 777 or stop by Dover Downs Slots Guest Services. s shows m k,cad in d n, gr,dstmd unless oUmwise bllcamd. Route 13 Dme DE I J. .u,, am 1-800-711-5882 ldm  m GdlbQ hddmm www, doverdowm.c0ol