[caption id="attachment_209462" align="alignnone" width="2560"] Lobbyists representing major causes, associations and businesses spoke about government spending, clean energy, government regulations, housing, business climate, and workforce development. | PHOTO COURTESY OF SCOTT GRAHAM/UNSPLASH[/caption]
In the last few weeks, the Delaware Business Times talked with lobbyists who represent major causes, associations and business interests in the First State on what they believe will come out of the 2024 legislative session – and what their clients and members are watching. Those lobbyists include James Dechene of Armitage Dechene, Kim Willson of Ruggerio, Willson & Associates, Scott Kidner of C.S. Kidner Associates and the Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce's vice president of legislative affairs, Tyler Micik, director of public policy and government relations for the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce; and Carrie Cole of ByrdGomes. These are the top issues that came to mind:Government SpendingDechene: One of the biggest issues [I think will be]how Delaware’s revenue picture looks and the impact it may have on the state budget. Following that … finding new ways to help fund our local fire service and innovation to move the state forward, including broadband funding and connectivity.Kidner: I know the state is predicting a drop off in revenue, and those reports are an extremely important component to what [Legislative Hall] does. Now we’re adding a little increased pressure as well because some of the legislators have never been through a downturn before. They’ve seen rising revenues and all their projects get funded with record-breaking government spending. So that is certainly one of the biggest issues.Micik: Incorporation fees and unclaimed property makeup almost half of Delaware’s net general fund revenues. Protecting and strengthening these laws is a top priority of our members and should be to all Delawareans because they will be asked to make up for lost revenues if companies choose to go elsewhere.Clean Energy and Environmental JusticeCole: The community involvement in environmental issues will be another area of interest for many of our clients, specifically on the permitting issue: new permits and renewals. In addition, we are watching issues surrounding PFAS (“forever chemicals”) and how it will be handled at the state level.Willson: Environmental justice is a conversation that’s been ongoing and I do think it’ll continue this session. It’s really about how we find that balance between economic development and finding a way to be beneficial for all parties. One of the biggest things coming to the top is theMid-Atlantic Clean Hydrogen Hub (MACH2) and looking at what policies need to be adjusted to accommodate a hydrogen economy.Regulations Micik: Many businesses are good stewards of the environment and communities they serve. The perception by some to the contrary, in most cases is inaccurate and benefits no one. Progress will be delayed if laws and law-making processes are not collaborative and don’t provide certainty and predictability for the business community and all stakeholders.Kidner: Paid family leave also needs to be readdressed … I think Chris [Counihan, director of Division of Paid Leave] has been great with meeting with people, but I don’t think the general public knows what’s headed their way. Another big unknown is the Delaware EARNS program, requiring small businesses to understand how to manage a savings account. There’s just a lot that a whole bunch of folks are unaware of.HousingWillson: We’re hearing a lot of discussion on the affordability of housing in Delaware. It’s been interesting to see businesses get engaged in that conversation that aren’t housing developers. Especially in Sussex, they’re struggling to find housing for potential employees. It also ties into helping the homeless population. Business ClimateCole: We have several clients who are interested in and invested or concerned about all the issues above as well as ensuring Delaware is a friendly place to do business. [That includes] allowing for economic development and growth and works towards the Ready in Six initiatives to allow for businesses to more easily come into the state. Workforce Development and Education:Willson: Broadly on the business side, [our clients] are interested in ensuring there’s a pipeline of employees and what that looks like for various industries up and down the state. We represent Chemours, and they have a research and development center in Newark, so it’s something top of [my] mind to make sure we have people who are prepared in the STEM space to help innovate solutions that are going to solve a lot of issues and the world's grappling with right now.
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