Delaware Legislative Update for the Fourth Week of May 2023

The weekly summary of Leg Hall business and a special explainer – What is the Joint Finance Committee (JFC)?

,  ·   · May 22, 2023

Last week’s recap 

Both House Bill 150 – the “Cover All Delaware Children Act,” which would expand Medicaid coverage to include undocumented children – and House Bill 140 – “End of Life Options” which allows terminally ill patients to choose to medically end their own life – were released from the House Health Committee last week. HB 140 is the most recent iteration of Rep. Baumbach’s End of Life Options bill. A new development this year though. Both House and Senate Democratic leadership are signed on as cosponsors.

SS 1 for Senate Bill 2, which would require a “Permit to Purchase” a handgun, cleared the House Judiciary Committee last week after passing the Senate earlier in May. To obtain a permit to purchase a handgun, a person would now need to complete a firearms training course and submit a detailed application and fingerprints to the State Bureau of Investigation for a criminal background check. A permit may also be denied if law enforcement finds probable cause that the applicant poses a danger of causing physical injury to self or others by owning, purchasing, or possessing firearms. Concealed carry license holders and qualified law enforcement and retired law-enforcement officers.will not be required to complete the permit process. 

Concerns have arisen regarding the amount of information this law will ask of potential permit holders and how application records will be handled to avoid misuse, but there’s theoretically room to introduce a  “cleanup bill” at a later date to attempt addressing these issues. This bill does have a several million dollar fiscal note attached (a further process to approve a new state law that would require new funding to implement), so it have to clear an additional hurdle in the House Appropriations Committee before getting a final House vote. An amendment has been added by the bill sponsor to replace the open-ended voucher program with a pilot program that will last 1 year and issue a maximum of 500 vouchers for low-income individuals who wish to take a firearms training course in order to apply for a permit to purchase, presumably to lower the fiscal note.

Senate Bill 128, which will establish the crime of obstruction of justice in the Delaware Criminal Code, was released from the Senate Judiciary with no questions or comments aside from Department of Justice testimony in support of the bill. While this bill 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,” advocates have noted that the bill’s language appears broad enough to apply an obstruction of justice charge to almost anyone, not just those in positions of authority or political power. Those advocates aim to ensure those concerns will be addressed before the bill advances further.

Two criminal justice reform bills that were supposed to be on last week’s committee agendas have been postponed until June: 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. Senate Bill 4 provides needed reform to Delaware’s probation system and is part of the Smart Justice Delaware’s “People Not Probation” effort. This bill is facing heavy opposition from law enforcement.

What’s coming up this week

The General Assembly will be out of session until June 6 in order for the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) to meet for budget markup. In lieu of the usual preview for next week, we’re going to do a brief explainer of what the JFC is and what it does:

JFC Markup Overview

The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) is responsible for writing the annual appropriations (operating budget) and grant-in-aid acts. The JFC is made up of 12 members of the General Assembly; it is comprised of the six members of the Senate Finance Committee and the six members of the House Appropriations Committee.

  • Members:
    • Chair: Rep. Carson (D)
    • Vice Chair: Sen. Paradee (D)
    • Senators:
      • Sen. Brown (D)
      • Sen. Hansen (D)
      • Sen. Sturgeon (D)
      • Sen. Buckson (R)
      • Sen. Lawson (R)
    • Representatives
      • Rep. Bolden (D)
      • Rep. Griffith (D)
      • Rep. Williams (D)
      • Rep. Briggs King (R)
      • Rep. Hensley (R)

What is JFC Markup?

JFC Markup is the two week break that occurs after the annual Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council (DEFAC) report that comes out in May. During this period, the committee will set dollar amounts to line item requests in the Governor’s Recommended Budget based upon findings in the DEFAC report.

DEFAC Findings (May 2023)

  • General Findings to note
    • Real estate transfer taxes are down due to a contracting market
    • Medicaid expenditures are up due to federal pandemic funding being pulled
    • Staffing shortages has led to potential future concerns over income tax and agencies contracting their expected staffing funds
  • JFC Members will have to cut roughly $25 million from the Governor’s recommended budget
    • This is an $11 million shift from the March forecast that $36 million would need to be cut from the budget. This shift came from higher than expected income tax filings.
  • JFC Markup Meeting Dates – all start at 10 AM and will be livestreamed
    • Tuesday, May 23rd
    • Wednesday, May 24th
    • Thursday, May 25th
    • Tuesday, May 30th
    • Wednesday, May 31st
    • Thursday, June 1st

About the Author

Read more from Josh Whittaker.