There are only a few days left until the General Assembly adjourns for the year on June 30th. Because this is the first year of the 2-year General Assembly, bills that are not passed by June 30 can still be picked back up where they are in January. However, there are plenty of bills that will be voted on this week, and many more that should be so they can go into effect as soon as possible.
An important bill for many criminal justice reform advocates, SB 4 will finally be heard in the Senate Corrections Committee this Wednesday at 11am. This bill would modernize Delaware’s probation system, and is part of Smart Justice Delaware’s “People Not Probation” effort. The police lobby opposes this bill.
The Senate Executive Committee also has a few notable bills on the agenda Wednesday at 1pm.
- HB 215 would move primary elections from September to April. Under this bill, the date of primary elections for statewide office, county office, and municipal office would occur on the fourth Tuesday in April, which is the date of the presidential primary. Mixed opinions on this: some feel it would help increase voter turnout while others feel that it would restrict the ability of primary candidates for local offices to campaign effectively, limiting campaign time by more than three months.
- HB 202 would generally ban firearms at a polling place on an Election Day. Intended to reduce voter intimidation, which is good, but this bill could benefit from an amendment restricting the law-enforcement exemption to only officers on duty and acting in their official capacity, as there have been instances of off-duty officers engaging in voter intimidation.
- HS1/HB 205 (LEOBOR reform) passed the House last week with opposition from advocates and support from police and Republicans. Rep. Madinah Wilson-Anton was the sole “no” vote in the House, citing discomfort with the fact that this version of police reform was backed by police while most advocates and impacted families oppose the bill as falling far short of the reforms they’re asking for. This bill seems likely to pass the Senate as well, so the real question will be if legislators commit to working with advocates as they requested starting July 1st to work on legislation that provides true police transparency and accountability.
Tuesday’s Senate Agenda includes the Budget and Bond Bills and several environmental bills, including HB 99 (Delaware Climate Change Solutions Act), SB 51 (ban on single-use styrofoam products), and HB 12 (electric vehicle rebates). The Grant-in-Aid Bill, which provides funding to nonprofits, fire companies, etc. has not yet been introduced, but will also be voted on this week.
Tuesday’s House Agenda is quite long, as can be expected this last week. Mostly non-controversial bills, but there are a few notable ones to highlight:
- HS1/HB 121, which is back again after being pulled from the agenda twice before, would amend Seaford’s town charter to allow artificial corporate entities such as limited liability companies to vote in the town’s municipal elections. This bill has garnered quite a bit of national attention, but we will have to wait and see whether a majority of House members will permit this absurd expansion of voting rights to owners of Delaware LLCs. After all, as the News Journal pointed out in May following HB 121’s committee hearing, it is rare for the legislature to vote down charter changes requested by the local government. To prevent this situation from arising in the future, the recently introduced HB 189 would altogether ban voting by corporate entities in Delaware municipal elections. Unfortunately, this bill has been sitting in the House Administration Committee since it was introduced on June 2nd.
- HB 119 would ban open containers of alcoholic beverages in motor vehicles and provide a civil penalty for an offense. With DUI/DWI laws already in existence, there are concerns that this bill could further incentivize police to search passengers in vehicles, possibly increasing law enforcement interaction within communities. This bill has come up before and hasn’t passed, but is included in Governor Carney/DE Dept. of Transportation’s road safety legislative package, so it’s possible the Executive Branch’s influence will place more pressure on legislators to pass it this year.
- HS1/HB 191 would allow renters to pay rent into court escrow if a landlord fails to fix dangerous or defective conditions. This is the latest version of this legislation, and hopefully will be able to pass. The immediate need for this came from last year’s Adams Street disaster and other incidents throughout the state.
- SB 114, which is a mammoth bill providing the annual update to the Delaware General Corporation Law as prepared by the Council of the Corporation Law Section of the State Bar Association, passed the Senate last month and is currently scheduled to be heard in the House as early as Tuesday. While the annual bills updating the state’s corporate, artificial entity, decedents’ estates, trusts, and fiduciary relations laws generally have the reputation of being “rubber stamped” by the General Assembly, this year advocates on behalf of “retail” stockholders (i.e., nonprofessional investors who buy stocks through a brokerage, as opposed to more sophisticated “institutional” investors like banks or hedge funds) are concerned with Section 7 of the bill allowing corporations that may be struggling financially to dilute stockholder value when the corporation proposes a vote to engage in a “reverse stock split.”
Time is running out for legislators to act on HB 230, which would expand on last session’s reproductive healthcare protections to protect access to gender affirming health care. The bill was introduced June 15th but the sponsor quickly announced that the bill would not be moving forward this year. Advocates have since sent thousands of letters to legislators asking for it to be prioritized before June 30th. Across the US, many states have passed or are in the process of passing anti-trans laws, and some trans people and their families had to flee their homes due to fear of prosecution or separation. Activists argue it’s a priority for the community to have this in place before the end of session so people and providers don’t go another year without protections, and so trans people in Delaware know they have the support of their community and their state.
Some other bills to look out for:
Bills that start with “S” are Senate Bills, and bills that start with “H” are House Bills. Generally, Senate Bills must pass the Senate Committee and Senate Floor, then House Committee and House Floor. House Bills must pass the House Committee and House Floor, then Senate Committee and Senate Floor. Ready List means the bill has passed committee and is waiting for a floor vote. Appropriations or Finance Committee generally means the bill has passed committee but the budget committee has not yet approved funding for the bill. General Assembly sessions are 2 years, so bills that are not passed by June 30 can be picked up again when session resumes in January.
|Bill #||Sponsor||Summary/Description||Status (as of 6/25)|
|SB 9||McBride||Creates a comprehensive system to eliminate lead-based paint from those residences where children are still exposed to lead.||Passed Senate, in House Appropriations Committee|
|SB 99||Pinkney||Bans “crime-free housing ordinances” that require eviction of tenants for criminal activity by a tenant, member of the tenant’s household, or a guest.||Passed Senate, House Ready List|
|HS1/HB 110||Minor-Brown||Medicaid coverage for abortion.||House Appropriations Committee|
|SS1/SB2||Lockman||Requiring a permit to purchase a handgun.||Passed Senate, in House Appropriations Committee|
|HB 128||Baumbach||Creates one new tax bracket at 6.9% for income over $100k. Also adjusts rates for lower brackets to lower burden on working class people.||House Ready List|
|HB 140||Baumbach||End of Life Options. 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 Ready List|
|SS2/SB 8||Mantzavinos||Medical debt patient protections. Protects 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.||Passed Senate, House Ready List|
|SB 128||McBride||Creates 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. There are concerns that this is overly broad and could in practice be used to stack charges on ordinary people instead of the powerful organizations and individuals it is intended to catch.||Passed Senate, House Ready List|
|HB 155||Griffith||Makes 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 (glove compartment doesn’t count), 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. 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.|
While gun safety is important, concerns that this would give police grounds to increase vehicle searches and be disproportionately applied to target Black, Brown, and low-income communities.
|House Floor Vote Scheduled 6/27/23|
|HB 210||Dorsey Walker||Online sheriff sales. This bill provides that public sales of real estate may occur via an online auction process. Housing advocates raised concerns that this would make it easier for bad actors and out-of-state developers to buy investment properties and create more barriers to affordable housing.||House Ready List|
|SS1/SB 103||McBride||Electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Requires that newly constructed single-family and multi-family residential dwellings include certain electric vehicle charging infrastructure.||Passed Senate, House Ready List|
|SS1/SB 87||Huxtable||Exempts affordable housing projects from the realty transfer tax.||Passed Senate, House Ready List|
|HB 89||Baumbach||Increases the standard tax deduction and earned income tax credit. Intended to benefit low-income and working class people.||Passed House, Senate Ready List|
|HB 186||Romer||Juvenile sex offender registry updates. Makes changes to the requirements for placement on the sex offender registry of juveniles who are adjudicated delinquent of certain offenses. Reduces the offenses requiring mandatory placement on the registry and allows an appeal process for juveniles to get removed from the registry.||Passed House, Senate Ready List|
|HB 151||Morrison||PFAs for financial abuse. Adds the intentional restriction of another adult’s access to economic resources resulting in a loss of financial autonomy to the definition of abuse for protection from abuse proceedings. Basically, allows protection from abuse orders for cases of financial abuse.||Passed House, in Senate Judiciary Committee|
|HS2/HB 142||Morrison||Banning 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.||Passed House, Senate Ready List|
|SS1/SB 163||Sokola||Charter school licensure & certification exemptions. Codifies exemptions for charter schools where they do not have to meet the same certification & licensure requirements for school leaders as traditional public schools.||Passed Senate, in House Administration Committee|
|HB 165||Lynn||Codifies the prosecution’s obligation under Brady v. Maryland, a United State Supreme Court case, which requires the prosecution to provide evidence favorable to an accused.||House Ready List|
|HB 188||Moore||Codifies the Equity Ombudsman program required as part of lawsuit settlements over Delaware’s educational equity. The purpose of this is to provide students and families encountering inequity in the school system with non-lawyer advocates to assist them.||Passed House, in Senate Education Committee 6/27/23|
|HB 50||K. Williams||Creates a new crime for stealing packages off porches. Theft is already a crime, so concerned about creating a separate offense that can be used to stack charges and are far more likely to be applied to a person of color in the rare case of an arrest for any of these instances.||House Ready List|
|SB 104||Walsh||Creates a new crime for stealing catalytic converters. Theft is already a crime, so concerned about creating a separate offense that can be used to stack charges and are far more likely to be applied to a person of color in the rare case of an arrest for any of these instances.||Senate Ready List|