Delaware Legislative Update for the Second Week of May 2023

New weekly series summarizing the current business of Delaware’s General Assembly

 ·   · May 8, 2023

Last week’s recap

Last Tuesday, the House Natural Resources & Energy Committee released House Bill 99, otherwise known as the Climate Change Solutions Act, with eight favorable votes. HB 99 is the centerpiece of a package of bills aimed at reducing human-caused greenhouse gas emissions in Delaware and encouraging investment in sustainable energy. Specifically, HB 99 would set targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 (a 50% reduction) and 2050 (a 100% reduction), calculated using baseline emissions data from 2005. The bill also calls on state agencies to consider climate change in their decision-making, rulemaking, and procurement. Because the Governor’s Office is supporting this package of bills, we should see it on the House floor shortly. 

One piece of legislation we covered last week, House Bill 96, which seeks to reduce the voting age for school board elections from 18 to 16, stalled in the House Education committee this past Wednesday. Following robust discussion of the bill’s proposal, a majority of the committee members determined more work was required by HB 96’s sponsor to address concerns raised by his colleagues on the House Education committee. That said, a majority of the resistance to this bill came from legislators who have little to no faith that 16 and 17 year-olds are able to make reasoned decisions on voting, free of outside influence or peer pressure. Even some Democratic committee members struggled to voice support for the bill as currently written. Time will tell if HB 96 will be amended a second time and placed back on the House Education Committee’s agenda.

Some additional bad news; this time, out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senate Bill 100 would reclassify certain criminal offenses—Tier 3 (i.e., the highest tier of weight/potency) Drug Manufacturing/Delivery/Intent and Tier 3 Drug Possession—as violent felonies, even though these offenses are not inherently violent. Despite every public commenter opposing SB 100, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to release it last week. The synopsis for SB 100 obliquely recognizes “the association of higher drug volumes and gun violence” as the justification for reclassifying these otherwise nonviolent activities as violent felonies. This explanation has also been promoted by the Delaware Department of Justice in its advocacy for SB 100. Hopefully, legislators in both chambers will closely consider the negative consequences and harsher penalties that this bill will yield for those arrested for otherwise nonviolent drug dealing or drug possession. 

Finally, Representative Bill Bush is sponsoring two pieces of legislation that have passed the House and were released from Senate Committees last week. House Bill 102 would make changes to the section of the Delaware Code governing highways, expediting the issuance of a temporary entrance permit by the Department of Transportation for commercial and economic development projects. This bill is scheduled to be on the Senate floor Tuesday. House Bill 104 revises the sections of the Delaware Code governing state planning and land use planning so that the process for certain economic development projects is expedited and in some cases exempted from participating in Delaware’s PLUS process for land use change proposals. Certain stakeholders, including the land development community, the state Chamber of Commerce, and the Governor’s Office, apparently are eager to see these two bills become law.

What’s coming up this week

First, a bill widely supported by housing rights and criminal justice reform activists: Senate Bill 99. This bill prohibits municipal ordinances that require the eviction of tenants for criminal activity by a tenant, member of a tenant’s household, or a guest. This bill comes at the recommendation of the African American Task Force, which was established in 2020. 

There will be two bills concerning the realty transfer tax as it relates to affordable housing in Senate committees this Wednesday. Senate Bill 87 will exempt affordable housing from the realty transfer tax and is in the Senate Executive committee. Senate Bill 65 adds workforce and affordable housing programs to the current list of expenditures on which the counties are allowed to spend money raised by the realty transfer tax, and will be heard in the Senate Elections committee.

Two bills that are part of a slate of legislation concerning environmental issues will be up in the House Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday. House Bill 9, which requires that most state-owned vehicles be zero-emission by 2040, and House Bill 10, which aims to have 30% of the Delaware school bus fleet be electric by 2030. While the intentions of these bills are good, there are concerns about exemptions made for police vehicles, which make up a large portion of state-owned vehicles, calling into question how effective these bills will be. 

A series of bills, all sponsored by Senator Kyle Evans Gay, concerning Delaware corporate law will be heard in the Senate Judiciary. The bills are mostly intended to update the code sections applicable to corporate entities such as corporations, partnerships, and limited liability companies. 

House Bills 3 and 4 are part of a package of bills aimed at providing better mental health care in schools and will be heard in the House Education committee this Wednesday. HB 3 allows students to take excused absences for mental or behavioral health, while HB 4 will provide behavioral health support to schools that have experienced school-related trauma, such as the death of a student or teacher.

House Bill 140, a bill intended to allow terminally ill adults to medically end their own lives, colloquially known as End of Life Options, has been introduced in the House. This is the fifth iteration of an End of Life Options bill introduced since 2017, all of which were introduced by Representative Paul Baumbach. All previous versions of the bill either died in committee or weren’t brought to the floor for a vote. These bills have proven quite controversial in the past with disability activists indicating that some people may feel pressured by family or a lack of other options to end their lives, while advocates for HB 140 saying that it will allow people suffering from terminal diseases to end their lives with dignity and some modicum of peace. The chance of the bill’s passing seems relatively high this time, with all Democratic leadership in both houses sponsoring HB 140.

Finally, a bill intended to expand wiretapping authority will be part of the Senate’s consent agenda this week. A consent agenda is a parliamentary procedure that allows a legislative body to vote on a group of usually uncontroversial items and bills en masse, rather than having to take the time to vote on each separately. The question is why this bill, Senate Bill 91, which grants an increasing amount of power to state authorities, doesn’t require a full discussion and vote on the Senate floor.

Committee Hearing Alerts

While our team reviews every bill that comes up, for the sake of length and clarity, we will only be sharing the most notable bills in these reports. Click on the committee name under the Committee Meeting Info column for a link to the meeting agenda, in-person or virtual public comment info, and livestream link.

You can also check here for the full list of committee meetings and click “view” next to each meeting for the full agenda and additional information.

Bills coming up the week of 5/8/23:

Bill #SponsorSummary/DescriptionCommittee Meeting InfoDateTime
HB 9GriffithRequires all passenger vehicles and light duty vehicles owned and operated by the State be zero emission vehicles by 2040. 
Law enforcement vehicles and vessels of State agency law-enforcement personnel; vehicles owned by the Department of Education, school districts, and charter schools; and designated take home vehicles shall be exempt from these requirements; the Office of Management and Budget can grant additional exemptions.
House Natural ResourcesWednesday, May 10Noon
HB 10HeffernanEstablishes targets for the State to purchase electric school buses through 2030. The goal of this legislation is for 30% of the state’s school bus fleet to be electric by 2030.House Natural ResourcesWednesday, May 10Noon
HB 3LonghurstAllows students excused absences for the mental or behavioral health of a student. Requires that any student taking more than 2 such excused absences be referred to a behavioral health specialist.House EducationWednesday, May 103pm
HB 4LonghurstProvides more behavioral health supports to school districts and charter schools in the aftermath of a school-connected traumatic event, which is defined as the death of any student, educator, administrator, or other building employee of a public school.House EducationWednesday, May 103pm
HB 121D. ShortWould allow artificial entities, limited liability corporations, partnerships, and trusts to vote in Municipal elections held in the City of Seaford.House AdministrationWednesday, May 10Noon
SB 99PinkneyCrime-free ordinances bill. Prohibits municipal ordinances that require the eviction of tenants for criminal activity by a tenant, member of the tenant’s household, or a guest.Senate HousingWednesday, May 101pm
SB 87HuxtableAffordable housing exemptions from the realty transfer tax.Senate ExecutiveWednesday, May 103pm
SB 79BucksonTerm limits for legislators and the Attorney General, Insurance Commissioner, Auditor of Accounts, and State Treasurer.Senate ExecutiveWednesday, May 103pm
SB 72PooreAllows union members to get a tax credit for membership dues up to $500.Senate LaborWednesday, May 10Noon
SB 104WalshCreates new crimes and penalties for catalytic converter theft.Senate JudiciaryWednesday, May 102pm
HB 95GriffithCreates guidelines for dealing with pets/companion animals in divorce proceedings, taking into account the best interest of the animal. Senate JudiciaryWednesday, May 102pm
HB 120CookeUpdates the current standard for “reckless driving” to also include driving a vehicle at 90mph+.Senate EnvironmentWednesday, May 102pm
SB 103McBrideCharging infrastructure for electric vehicles. Requires that newly constructed single-family and multi-family residential dwellings include certain electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Senate EnvironmentWednesday, May 102pm

Other New Bills Introduced:

Bill #SponsorSummary/Description
HB 12PhillipsCreates an Electric Vehicle Rebate Program to incentivize the purchase and lease of new and used electric vehicles by Delaware residents. All-electric vehicles shall receive a rebate of no more than $2,500 and hybrid vehicles shall receive a rebate of no more than $1,000.
HB 140BaumbachEnd-of-Life Options. Would permit a terminally ill individual who is an adult resident of Delaware to request and self-administer medication to end the individual’s life in a humane and dignified manner if both the individual’s attending physician or attending advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) and a consulting physician or consulting APRN agree on the individual’s diagnosis and prognosis and believe the individual has decision-making capacity, is making an informed decision, and is acting voluntarily.
HB 145Wilson-AntonProhibits law enforcement and courts from requesting, issuing, or enforcing reverse warrants. Reverse warrants enable the government to obtain location data or technology search data without identifying any specific person as to which there is probable cause to believe they have committed or will imminently commit a crime.

About the Author

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