Delaware Legislative Update for the Third Week of May 2023

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

 ·   · May 16, 2023
Delaware House Chamber

Last week’s recap

Two vital housing bills were released from Senate committees last week: SB 99 (Pinkney) prohibits municipal “crime-free housing 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. SB 87 (Huxtable) exempts affordable housing from the realty transfer tax

HB 62 (Wilson-Anton) passed a full House vote on May 11th. This bill requires property assessments every 5 years, codifying the findings of various lawsuits that required Delaware’s counties to begin first in decades reassessments to increase equity in school funding.

The House Natural Resources committee released three bills from the environmental package of legislation: HB 8 (Osienski), which creates a clean construction references committee that will determine and publish preferences for clean construction for state construction projects. HB 9 (Griffith), which requires that most state-owned vehicles be zero-emission by 2040, and HB 10 (Heffernan), which aims to have 30% of new buses in the Delaware school bus fleet be electric by 2030. Environmental activists in the state have said that, while the intentions of these bills are good, they are concerned about exemptions made for police and other vehicles which make up a large portion of state-owned vehicles, and call into question how effective these bills will be. 

What’s coming up this week

An important bill for many criminal justice reform advocates, Senate Bill 4 will be heard in the Senate Corrections Committee this coming Wednesday. This bill’s stated purpose is to modernize the Delaware criminal justice system, especially the way probation is practiced in the state. This bill is part of the Smart Justice Delaware’s  “People Not Probation” effort

On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear Senate Bill 128, which will establish the crime of obstruction of justice into the Delaware Criminal Code. The bill states that it “addresses actions that powerful individuals and organizations take to silence victims and witnesses and impede investigations into fraud, abuse, corruption, and white collar crime.” Proposed in response to the trial of Kathy McGuiness last year and other recent corruption scandals, but advocates for criminal justice reform have raised questions about the broadness of the language in the bill, stating concern that it will be used against regular defendants and not simply “powerful individuals and organizations”.

The House Judiciary committee will hear two notable bills: House Bill 142, which will eliminate the so-called “gay panic“ or “LGBTQ+ panic” defense, and the substitute bill for Senate Bill 2 which will require a permit to purchase a handgun. Both are expected to pass out of the committee, likely on party lines. 

House Bill 145 aims to crack down on broad police surveillance by prohibiting law-enforcement from using “reverse warrants” to obtain broad location or technology search data without probable cause that any specific person has committed or will imminently commit a crime. This bill will be heard in House Public Safety on Tuesday.

Two somewhat contentious bills are up in the House Health committee this Tuesday. House Bill 140, “End of Life Options” which allows terminally ill patients to choose to medically end their own life. House Bill 150, the Cover All Delaware Children Act, would expand Medicaid coverage to include undocumented children.

House Bill 128 which will create a new top personal income tax bracket at 6.9% for income over $100,000 will be heard in the House Revenue & Finance committee Wednesday. Delaware’s current top tax bracket is $60,000. There have been several attempts in previous years to raise the tax brackets, all of which have failed, but given that several members of Democratic leadership in both houses have signed on to the bill this attempt is more likely to succeed. 

In response to the recent revelations of high levels of lead in the drinking water of many schools, Senator Sarah McBride and Representative Larry Lambert have introduced Senate Bill 9 which is intended to introduce a comprehensive system to eliminate lead-based paint from those residences where children are still exposed to lead. The bill was introduced last week, has already passed through the Senate Health & Social Services and Finance Committees. It will be considered by the full Senate on Tuesday. 

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 5/15/23:

Bill #SponsorSummary/DescriptionCommittee Meeting InfoDateTime
HB 140BaumbachEnd of Life Options. This Act permits 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.House Health Tuesday, May 1610am
HB 150GriffithCover All Children Act. This Act directs the Department of Health and Social Services to develop and operate a limited medical assistance program for children in Delaware who are not otherwise covered, including children who are not documented.House Health Tuesday, May 1610am
HB 145Wilson-AntonReverse Warrants. This act would prohibit law enforcement and courts from requesting, issuing, or enforcing reverse-location court orders, reverse-keyword court orders, reverse-location requests and reverse keyword requests. House Public SafetyTuesday, May 1611am
HB 154GriffithDelaware Personal Data Privacy Act. The Act delineates a consumer’s personal data rights and provides that residents of this State will have the right to know what information is being collected about them, see the information, correct any inaccuracies, or request deletion of their personal data that is being maintained by entities or people.House TechnologyTuesday, May 16Noon
HB 142MorrisonBanning LGBTQ+ Panic Defense. Outlaws the so-called LGBTQ+ panic defense that seeks to partially or completely excuse or justify a defendant from full accountability for the commission of a crime on the grounds that the actual or perceived sexual orientation, sex, gender, gender identity, or sex assigned at birth of the victim explains, excuses, or justifies the defendant’s conduct.House JudiciaryWednesday, May 1711am
SS1/SB2LockmanRequiring a permit to purchase a handgun. House JudiciaryWednesday, May 1711am
HB 128BaumbachCreates one new tax bracket at 6.9% for income over $100k. Also adjusts rates for lower brackets to lower burden on working class people.Revenue & FinanceWednesday, May 17Noon
HB 141MorrisonBackground checks for candidates. Requires all candidates for statewide office, the General Assembly, and all elected county offices, to request a criminal history background check, no later than the filing deadline, from the State Bureau of Identification and submit to Dept. of Elections.House AdministrationWednesday,May 17Noon
SB 4PinkneyProbation reform. Modernizes Delaware’s criminal justice system, especially its probation system, by doing the following: (1) Ending incarceration of probationers for technical violations. (2) Enabling the customization of conditions of probation to meet individual needs. (3) Requiring the collection and publication of community corrections data. (4) Investing in community-based re-entry programs. (5) Limiting probation terms to 1 year.Senate CorrectionsWednesday, May 1711am
SS1/SB8MantzavinosProtects patients from unfair debt collection practices for medical debt, including prohibiting large health care facilities from charging interest and late fees, requiring facilities to offer reasonable payment plans, limiting the sale of debt to debt collectors unless an agreement is made to keep protections in place, providing minimum time before certain collections actions may be taken, limiting liability for the medical debt of others, and preventing the reporting of medical debt to consumer credit reporting agencies for at least one year after the debt was incurred.Senate BankingWednesday, May 1711am
SB 128McBrideCreates crime of obstruction of justice. This Act is intended to address actions that powerful individuals and organizations take to silence victims and witnesses and impede investigations into fraud, abuse, corruption, and white collar crime.Senate JudiciaryWednesday, May 172pm
SB 120BucksonAllows counties to use realty tax funds on affordable housing by adding workforce and affordable housing programs to the current list of realty transfer tax eligible expenditures for New Castle, Kent, and Sussex Counties.Senate ExecutiveWednesday, May 173pm

Other New Bills Introduced:

Bill #SponsorSummary/Description
HB 155GriffithMakes the unsafe storage of a firearm in a vehicle a class A misdemeanor if the person knowingly leaves a firearm unattended in a vehicle and the firearm is not stored in a locked box or container, a firearms rack that is on the motor vehicle, or locked in the trunk. This bill also provides that compliance with unsafe storage of a firearm in a vehicle is a defense to carrying a concealed deadly weapon.
§ 4206. Sentence for misdemeanors. (a) The sentence for a class A misdemeanor may include up to 1 year incarceration at Level V and such fine up to $2,300, restitution or other conditions as the court deems appropriate.
SB 118BucksonWould bring back the death penalty. Since Delaware’s death penalty statute was ruled unconstitutional, some legislators try every year to bring it back. With zero Democratic cosponsors this bill has little chance of proceeding through the process.

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