Legislative Update

July 2, 2013

Senate defeats bill to keep guns from mentally ill

A bill to expand the mental health prohibition on gun ownership was defeated in the Senate June 27.

House Bill 88, sponsored by Rep. Michael Barbieri, D-Newark, would have prohibited individuals from owning guns if they were determined by a court to be a danger to themselves or others, found guilty but mentally ill or not guilty by reason of insanity, or found incompetent to stand trial.

The bill would have also required mental health professionals to notify law enforcement if they believed a patient was a danger to themselves or others.

The bill cleared the House in a vote of 40-1, May 14. Senators defeated the legislation 13-6. The bill was drafted by the Attorney General’s Office.

Markell signs rent justification law

Gov. Jack Markell signed a measure limiting rent increases for manufactured home owners, June 30.

“The work done on this issue by lawmakers and advocates to come together and resolve a challenging issue reflects a theme of the legislative session that will conclude tonight,” Markell said during a June 30 bill-signing ceremony.

“I commend the sponsors of this legislation and all of the lawmakers involved for their hard work on a carefully crafted compromise that resulted in broad support, striking a balance between the needs of homeowners and community owners.”

Sen. Bruce Ennis, D-Smyrna, said, “It has been a long struggle, and I think this is great because it just creates some predictability for people in manufactured homes in regard to rent increases, and I think it’s important that we were able to give some protections and predictability.”

According to Senate Bill 33, community owners can raise rents as high as the three-year average of the Philadelphia regional consumer price index. If certain costs, such as major capital improvements to a community, caused landowners to seek a higher rent hike, they would have to make their case before the state’s Manufactured Housing Relocation Authority. The law also provides for arbitration and legal review if an increase is disputed by either landowners or tenants. It also provides penalties for community owners who continue to raise rents beyond the ceiling.

Ed Speraw, president of the Delaware Manufactured Home Owners Association, said the signing was a great day for homeowners.

“By doing this, we’ve helped thousands and thousands of manufactured home owners, and these people needed this bill – badly,” he said. “This law will help thousands of people who might have been forced from their homes through dramatic rent increases keep their homes.”

Senate approves more jail time for gun offenders

Senators passed legislation June 30 that increases the minimum prison sentences for convicted felons if they are subsequently convicted of possessing a gun.

House Bill 36, introduced by Rep. Ruth Briggs King, R-Georgetown, and supported by Attorney General Beau Biden, doubles the mandatory jail sentences for repeat offenders who are later caught with a gun. The bill also increases additional mandatory sentences for the illegal possession of a gun.

“Keeping violent and repeat offenders who possess and use guns off the street for longer periods of time will make our communities safer,” Biden said.

Under current law, persons prohibited from possessing guns who are subsequently convicted of possessing or purchasing a gun face a minimum mandatory jail sentence of one year if the offender was previously convicted of a violent felony; three years if the offender committed a previous violent felony within 10 years; and five years if the offender was previously convicted of two or more violent felonies.

New law could trigger life sentences for criminals with guns

In a vote of 40-1 the House passed a bill June 30 that subjects criminals who use guns to significantly higher jail sentences. Senate Bill 40 adds the crime of Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony to the list of serious violent felonies that can trigger a life prison sentence under Delaware’s habitual offender statute.

“Gun violence is a threat to families in every corner of our state, and it has to stop,” Attorney General Beau Biden said. “With this bill we are sending a clear message that you will pay a heavy price if you commit a crime with a gun.”

The charge was not an offense at the time the habitual offender statute was enacted in 1970. SB 40 was introduced by Sen. Bruce Ennis, D-Smyrna, a retired state trooper, and Rep. Larry Mitchell, a retired New Castle County police officer.

It passed the Senate unanimously on May 9.

Lawmakers pass bill to curb prescription drug abuse

Delaware’s prescription- monitoring efforts will be strengthened by legislation that received final approval in the General Assembly June 30. Senate Bill 119, which passed the House and Senate unanimously, responds to the increasing number of prescription drug addicts who are turning to emergency rooms and urgent care clinics to obtain narcotics.

The legislation was developed by the Attorney General’s Office after consultations with regulators, medical professionals and legislators, and it was introduced by two legislators who work as nurses: Sen. Bethany-Hall Long, D-Middletown, chairwoman of the Senate’s Health and Social Services Committee, and Rep. Rebecca Walker, D-Middletown.

SB 119 limits all medical facilities – except licensed pharmacies – from dispensing more than a 72-hour supply of a controlled substance to patients.

The bill also requires the Department of Health and Social Services to establish a uniform protocol to guide caregivers regarding the proper disposal of controlled substances upon a patient’s death. Hospice care providers would also assist family members and caregivers to inventory and dispose of a patient’s remaining supply of controlled substances upon that patient’s death.

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