Flags lowered to half-staff March 7 to 11 in honor of former Delaware Judge Leonard Williams

DOVER – With the passing of former Delaware Judge and civil rights leader Leonard Williams, Gov. Markell has ordered the American and Delaware flags at state buildings and facilities be flown at half-staff beginning the morning of Thursday, March 7 until the start of business on Monday, March 11 as a mark of respect. Judge Williams, the state’s fifth African-American attorney and one of the first black students to integrate the University of Delaware, served as a Municipal Court Judge from 1966 to 1998. He passed away on Saturday, March 2, and his services are scheduled for Friday, March 8.

Storm Status Update – Wednesday Evening March 6

(Smyrna) The storm that dumped heavy amounts of snow in some nearby states roared into Delaware today, bringing rain that was heavy at time, and high winds.  The combination of precipitation, wind, and tides brought some flooding to coastal areas of the state.

As early as Tuesday afternoon, state and county emergency agencies were urging residents in areas that experience flooding during coastal storms to begin moving to higher ground.  The major concern continues to be flooding and high winds.  National Weather Service forecasters warn that some snow could make its way into Delaware Wednesday night, and continue as a mix of snow and rain early Thursday, then changing to rain by afternoon.

There is still strong concern about the high winds that will continue in the area, as well as possible flooding along the Atlantic coast, Delaware Bay and in back bay communities.  A Coastal Flood Warning remains in effect until 8am Thursday for Kent and Sussex Counties, with a Winter Weather Advisory posted until 6am Thursday in New Castle and Kent Counties. And a Wind Advisory continues until midnight Wednesday night in Kent and Sussex Counties.

The Charter School of Wilmington was closed on Wednesday, and the Cape Henlopen, Indian River, and Sussex Tech school districts dismissed students early. As many as nine school districts across the state cancelled afternoon and evening activities.

A small number of roads in all three counties were closed due to flooding, most notably Route 1 between Dewey Beach and Bethany Beach was closed in both directions after waves breached a dune north of the Indian River Inlet Bridge and covered the roadway with water.  Primehook Road was closed for a short period Wednesday morning when water made the road impassable.  An alternate route in and out of Prime Hook was closed at 7pm.  Afternoon departures on the Cape May-Lewes Ferry were cancelled.  In Maryland, officials closed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge briefly Wednesday afternoon due to high winds, but later re-opened it to passenger vehicles only.  Trucks and other large vehicles are being re-routed.

By late afternoon (5pm), under 6,300 power outages were reported across the state, most of which were in Sussex County.  Crews from Delmarva Power and the Delaware Electric Cooperative are working to restore power to affected areas.

Kent and Sussex Counties activated their Emergency Operations Centers (EOC) at 4pm.  The state EOC was activated at 6pm, and is staffed by Delaware Emergency Management Agency (DEMA) personnel and select representatives from other agencies.


Former Congressman and Governor Mike Castle Joins Governor Markell, Lt. Gov. Denn and AG Biden to Unveil Background Check Bill

Legislation sponsored by Rep. Longhurst, Sen. McDowell and others would require criminal history checks in connection with virtually all gun sales

(Wilmington, DE)  Joined by former Congressman and Governor Mike Castle and members of Delaware’s law enforcement community, Governor Jack Markell, Lt. Gov. Matt Denn, Attorney General Beau Biden today unveiled legislation to require background checks for virtually all gun sales, with a few limited exceptions.

“I am proud to endorse this initiative to expand background checks for firearm purchases,” said former Congressman and Governor Castle.  In 2009, I sponsored the Bipartisan Gun Show Loophole Closing Act in Congress because of my firm belief that only people who are not prohibited under law from having a gun should be allowed to buy one.  This is a common-sense measure that can save lives.”

Under existing law, when a licensed dealer sells a firearm, he or she must perform a background check on the potential buyer. But when the sale does not involve a licensed dealer, no background check is required,” said Governor Markell.  “We know that people who are prohibited by law from possessing firearms still try to acquire them.  This bill is an important tool to keep guns away from convicted felons and other persons who have no business having a gun in their hands.”

“Everyone who says we should do a better job of enforcing existing laws should be for this bill, because that’s exactly what it does: allow us to ensure that the people who we have legally prohibited from owning guns don’t in fact get them,” said  Lt. Governor, Matt Denn.  “Everyone who says we should be focused on dangerous people should be for this bill, because that’s exactly what it does: it ensures that people who we have already decided through the passage of laws are potentially dangerous do not get guns.”

“The evidence is clear that background checks keeps guns away from people not allowed to possess them under the law—especially criminals,” said Attorney General Biden, who helped to implement the Brady background check law when he worked at the U.S. Department of Justice in the late 1990s. “Requiring universal background checks is a common-sense approach to protect public safety by keeping weapons away from even more people who should not have them.”

In 2011, House Majority Leader Rep. Valerie Longhurst sponsored legislation to sync Delaware’s background check system with the federal database for firearm purchases. Rep. Longhurst said two years ago she listened to the testimony of parents of two victims in the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings and in light of recent events, Delaware needs to reevaluate its background checks system.

“Keeping firearms out of the hands of criminals is critical to cutting down on gun violence and protecting our citizens. One way to do that is through background checks for gun purchases, but there is a significant loophole in our current system that we need to address,” said Rep. Longhurst, D-Bear. “In just the last six years, close to 3,500 people were denied firearms because they failed a background check at a gun store. Unless we establish universal background checks, those same people can just go to a gun show or another private gun seller to buy a firearm. Why shouldn’t the same criteria apply to all of these gun sales? This bill would close that loophole and keep guns out of the hands of people who should never have the chance to purchase them.”

“Loopholes are ways people circumvent the law,” said Senator Harris McDowell, III, D-Wilmington North.  “This closes a giant loophole through which guns are pouring into the hands of criminals and others prohibited from possessing firearms.”

The legislation unveiled today would require that a background check be performed in connection with the sale or transfer of any firearm, regardless of whether the transaction involves a licensed dealer.  The bill includes a few narrow exceptions, including sales or transfers of firearms involving:

  • Immediate family members (parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, spouse or sibling);
  • Law enforcement officers who meet the training and qualification standards required by police agencies to carry firearms;
  • Antique (pre-1899) firearms and certain replicas thereof; and
  • The return of a firearm by a pawnbroker to the person from whom it was received.

Background checks would be performed by licensed dealers, who would be permitted (but not required) to charge up to $50 per background check. (Under existing law, a dealer may charge up to $20 for a background check requested by a private party.) Dealers would be required to maintain records of all background checks in accordance with state and federal law.

The penalty for a first offense would be a class A misdemeanor.  Any subsequent offense would be a class G felony.

Governor Recognized with “Spirit of the ADA Award” for Efforts to Employ Individuals with Disabilities

American Association of People with Disabilities Honors Markell in Wash, D.C.

(Washington, D.C.)  Joined by leaders from government, business and the disability community, Governor Markell was presented with the Spirit of the ADA Award at the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) 2013 Leadership Awards Gala.  The award recognizes extraordinary individuals who have shown leadership in support of the goals of the Americans with Disabilities Acts (ADA) and AAPD’s mission of promoting equal opportunity, economic power, independent living, and political participation for people with disabilities. Governor Markell was chosen for his efforts as Chair of the National Governors Association (NGA), including his yearlong Chair’s initiative, “A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities.

“I believe people are defined by their ability, not by their disability,” said Governor Markell. “States have a duty to ensure that individuals with disabilities are empowered to achieve their full potential, which is why my initiative focuses on the role both state government and business can play in advancing opportunities for these individuals to be gainfully employed in the competitive labor market.”

Upon officially becoming Chair of the NGA in July 2012, Governor Markell announced his yearlong initiative focused on advancing employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Now, halfway through his time as chair, the Governor is exploring model employers across the country who appreciate the benefits that employees with disabilities can provide for businesses of all sizes, including improving their bottom line and creating a more welcoming workplace. By this summer, the Governor will have developed a blueprint with concrete steps that Governors and states and businesses can take to provide opportunities that benefit both the individuals and the companies that employ them.

“I am honored to be recognized as one of the leaders working to improve the lives of people with disabilities,” said Governor Markell. “Ensuring we provide every person with the best possible chance to achieve personal and professional success will keep our country and our state moving forward.”

Widely considered one of the top disability gatherings in the nation, the Leadership Awards honor the people and organizations whose efforts are creating real and lasting change for Americans with disabilities.   The Awards celebrate achievement, leadership, and progress in AAPD’s mission to promote equal opportunity, economic power, independent living, and political participation for people with disabilities.

Other honorees this year include: Tony Coelho (Tony Coelho Leadership Award), The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (AAPD Image Award), and George Gallego and Dr. Anjali Forber-Pratt (Paul G. Hearne Leadership Awards).

The American Association of People with Disabilities is the nation’s largest disability rights organization. It promotes equal opportunity, economic power, independent living, and political participation for people with disabilities.  Members, including people with disabilities and family, friends, and supporters, represent a powerful force for change.

Photos from this event are available for viewing online.

Delaware State Employee Art Exhibition Winners Announced

Twenty-one talented state employees and their family members, recognized for their works of art as the results of the National Arts Program®: Delaware State Employee Exhibition and Contest II, were announced on Saturday, March 2. Approximately 400 people attended the Opening Reception. Secretary of State Jeffrey Bullock and Division of the Arts Director Paul Weagraff presided over the awards ceremony. Jackie J. Szafara, Executive Director of the National Arts Program®, was on hand to congratulate the winners.

In his remarks, Secretary Bullock commended the state employees and families members who contributed to the exhibition and thanked Delaware State University for this important partnership. He noted how this kind of exhibition reinforces the value of the arts and reflects the Governor’s commitment to a rich cultural environment contributing to our quality of life in Delaware.

Mr. Weagraff commented, “This exhibit allows us to see a side of our colleagues that we don’t often have an opportunity to witness in the workplace. It really heightens our awareness of how much of a role the arts play in so many lives.”

Twenty-one awards were announced in five categories – Professional, Intermediate, Amateur, Teen (13-18 years old), and Youth (12 years and under), culminating in one Best in Show. Sixteen cash prizes totaling $2,400 were awarded by the National Arts Program®. A list of winners and Honorable Mentions is below.

Two-hundred-eight employees of Delaware state agencies and their immediate family members submitted artwork for the 2013 exhibition and contest. The participating artists came from across the state (over half from Kent County) and represented 74 state agencies and 85 were returning participants.

The exhibition will be on view on in the Arts Center/Gallery at Delaware State University through March 20. Hours for viewing are Monday through Friday from 9:30 am – 3:00 pm with special hours between March 8 and 15. Visit www.artsdel.org for details.

Judges for the contest were Jennifer Gunther, Director Arts Center/Gallery, Delaware State University; Ryan Grover, Curator, Biggs Museum of American Art; Pat Staby, artist; and Steve Rogers, artist. At their discretion, the judges awarded five Honorable Mention ribbons.

The Delaware Division of the Arts is proud to be the local sponsor of The National Arts Program®, an organization established in 1982 to identify, showcase, and reward the visual artistic talent in America. The National Arts Program® currently sponsors 82 annual programs, encompassing more than 450 cities and counties within 38 states.

The award winning artwork can be viewed on Flickr. To view a complete set of all 208 art works, visit the Division’s Facebook page or view the artwork on Flickr. The image with the most likes on Facebook on March 21 will be named the “People’s Choice.”

BEST IN SHOW ($300):
Robert Palandrani
Artist Category: Professional

1st Place ($300)
Diane Laird

2nd Place ($200)
Cristen Hess

3rd Place ($100)
Mindi Schultze

Honorable Mention
Shari Dierkes

1st Place ($300)
Kaitlyn Malloy

2nd Place ($200)
Mary Wagner

3rd Place ($100)
Melanie Ferrin

Honorable Mention
Ron Wilson

1st Place ($300)
Christopher Portante

2nd Place ($200)
Denise Powell

3rd Place ($100)
Christopher Jones

Honorable Mention
Lisa Lindsay

TEEN CATEGORY (13-18 years old):
1st Place ($75)
Casey Williams

2nd Place ($50)
Valerie Limmina

3rd Place ($25)
Grace Coury

Honorable Mention
Maylene Ferrin

YOUTH CATEGORY (12 years & under):
1st Place ($75)
Thomas Krumrine

2nd Place ($50)
Carson Mears

3rd Place ($25)
Myles Pleasanton

Honorable Mention
Ben Horenstein