Legislative Wrap-Up

April 8, 2014

Bill would allow same day registration

A bill that will allow eligible voters to register and vote on Election Day passed the House Thursday, April 3.

House Bill 105, introduced by House Majority Whip Rep. John Viola, D-Newark, allows for same-day registration for presidential primary, primary, special, and general elections. Currently the deadline is the fourth Saturday prior to the date of the election.

HB 105 would implement same day registration in the November 2014 general election, but not in the Sept. 9 primary election.

House clears bill that increases business tax

A bill that increases the annual tax assessed on partnerships, limited partnerships and lim­ited liability companies passed through the House Thursday, April 3. House Bill 265, intro­duced by Speaker of the House Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Re­hoboth, on March 18 increases the annual tax assessed on file with the secretary of state from $250 to $300 and increases the corporation franchise tax by $100 for those corporations that file on the authorized shares method.

The legislation passed by a 26 to 13 vote (straight down party lines), with two absent. It has been assigned to the Senate Ex­ecutive Committee.

Bill proposes reduced state agency spending

Sen. Dave Lawson, R-Marydel, announced Thursday, April 3, plans to introduce legislation that reduces government spending and acts as an alternative to Gov. Jack Markell’s proposed gas- and water-tax increases.

The initiative, nicknamed “My Two Cents,” directs the heads of each state agency to reduce spending in their departments by two cents out of every dollar, without cutting personnel, em­ployee wages or critical services.

The cuts would save the state and taxpayers approximately $76 million per year – starting in fis­cal year 2015 – and $380 million over five years.

Gov. Jack Markell is propos­ing a 10-cent-per-gallon gas tax increase to help fund a five-year, $500 million investment in trans­portation infrastructure projects. The gas tax would raise $50 mil­lion per year. The other half of the funding would come from borrowing. An additional tax would generate $30 million annu­ally to help pay for an estimated $800 million in water projects.

The annual cost to Delaware taxpayers for the two initiatives is approximately $80 million. By reducing spending by $76 million per year, Lawson’s legislation would shift nearly the entire bur­den away from taxpayers.

Lawson says the legislation would mandate that all of the savings go only to help fund the governor’s road and water initia­tives.

Senate OKs witness intimidation bill

People found guilty of intimi­dating witnesses to keep them from working with police or taking the stand at a trial could face up to 25 years in prison un­der a bill that cleared the Senate Thursday, April 3. Senate Major­ity Whip Margaret Rose Henry, D-Wilmington East, introduced the legislation. Under the bill, people who try to talk witnesses out of reporting crimes to police or testifying at trial would be found guilty of intimidation and could face up to eight years in prison.

However, if those efforts include a real or implied threat of violence against a potential witness, their family members or property, a person could be charged with aggravated intimi­dation, which carries a maximum 25-year prison term.

Package of bills would reform election laws

Gov. Jack Markell and mem­bers of the General Assembly announced Thursday, April 3, a package of legislative proposals to bring additional transparency to Delaware elections and create a more effective process to inves­tigate wrongdoing. House Bill 302, sponsored by Rep. Earl Jaques, D-Glasgow, and Sen. Margaret Rose Hen­ry, D-Wilmington East, would consolidate the three existing county boards of election into a single State Board of Elec­tions; give the commissioner the authority to receive citizen reports of possible violations of Delaware’s election laws, includ­ing anonymous reports of such potential violations; establish the position of elections coun­sel, whose duties would include representing the state election commissioner and investigating possible violations of election laws; authorize the commission­er to refer possible violations to the Attorney General’s Office or United States Attorney’s Office for prosecution; and authorize the commissioner to prepare and publish manuals explaining the duties and responsibilities of individuals, political committees and others covered by Delaware’s campaign finance and other elec­tion laws.

Additional legislation to in­crease transparency and the ease of public access to campaign finance information was also introduced. Senate Bill 186, spon­sored by Henry and Rep. Michael Mulrooney, D-Penwood, requires that entities must disclose name and address of one responsible party – someone who shares or exercises direction or control over the entity’s activities; and requires that elections commis­sioner adopt uniform summary of law governing attribution of entity contributions, including examples of how law applies in specific cases. This summary must be posted on the elections commissioner’s website, and po­litical committees must provide summary to any entity contribu­tor that requests it.

House Bill 300, introduced by Rep. Paul Baumbach, D- Newark, amends the Whistleblower Pro­tection Act to ensure it protects employees who report and/or refuse to participate in violations of campaign finance laws, and who participate in an investiga­tion, hearing, trial or inquiry of a campaign finance violation.

House Bill 170, sponsored by Rep. Dennis E. Williams, D-Talleyville, and Sen. Bryan Townsend, D-Newark, estab­lishes June 30 as an additional mandatory reporting period for political campaign committees. Under current law, campaigns must only file reports disclosing contributions at the end of a cal­endar year, and 30 days and eight days before an election.

House Bill 301, sponsored by Rep. Trey Paradee, D-Cheswold, and Sen. David Sokola, D-New­ark, provides that contributions from joint bank accounts shall be attributed to the person sign­ing the check and establishes procedures for reallocation of contributions from joint bank accounts. Senate Bill 187, spon­sored by Sen. Robert Marshall, D-Wilmington West, and Rep. Ed Osienski, D-Newark, allows cam­paigns to return contributions mistakenly above the legal limit.

Tuition equity plan protects students

Sen. Robert Marshall, D-Wilm­ington West, has introduced a bill that will permanently allow un­documented children, who can establish Delaware residency, will pay in-state tuition rates at state colleges and universities.

Senate Bill 183 would allow students to establish residency if they can show they attended a Delaware public or private school for three years, graduated from a Delaware public or pri­vate school, are between 18 and 35 years old, and entered the U.S. before they turned 18.

Conditional licenses for offenders advances

House Bill 229, sponsored by Rep. Paul Baumbach, D-Newark, would allow for a conditional license for the purpose of attend­ing school, job training or dealing with “urgent need” family emer­gencies for drug offenders.

If signed into law, the bill would take effect Sept. 30. The bill was introduced Jan. 23 and passed the House unanimously March 27.

Currently, convicted drug offenders have their driver’s li­censes revoked but can obtain conditional licenses, if they are not in violation of probation re­quirements, to travel to their job, attend treatment appointments or meet with their probation officer. HB 229 now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Bills encourages responsible businesses

Democratic lawmakers un­veiled a package of bills on March 20 designed to promote responsible business practices across the business and construc­tion communities.

House Bill 268, sponsored by Rep. Trey Paradee, D-West Dover, would ensure that the Division of Motor Vehicles must have proof of a valid business license before registering a company vehicle. A business currently can register a business vehicle, which can carry tax write-offs, with DMV without actually having a valid business license in Delaware.

House Bill 269, sponsored by Rep. Charles Potter Jr., D-Wilm­ington North, would require the Department of Finance to provide an anonymous system to allow the reporting of individuals who fail to obtain an occupation­al or business license. Currently, citizens who want to tip off the state about possible violations must give their names.

House Bill 270, sponsored by House Majority Leader Val­erie Longhurst, D-Bear, would require that contractors, sub­contractors and independent contractors performing work under a public works contract obtain an occupational and/or business license within 30 days of being awarded the contract. The measure would also require all contractors to verify that their subcontractors and independent contractors have occupational and/or business licenses. A vio­lation of this new section could result in a civil penalty.

House Bill 271, sponsored by Rep. Dennis E. Williams, D-Talleyville, would require the Division of Professional Regula­tion to notify the Department of Finance of any person who practices a profession without a license and who DPR believes should have a business or oc­cupational license. This bill was passed through the HouseApril 1.

Wine bill clears committee

A bill that would permit wine producers holding a valid li­cense in Delaware or another state to obtain a license and ship wine directly to Delaware consumers. Introduced by Rep. Deborah Hudson, R-Fairthorne, in April 2013 and assigned to the House Economic Development/ Banking/Insurance/Commerce Committee, House Bill 60 was reported out of committee Jan. 29, 2014. The bill requires the payment of taxes and obtaining the signature of a person 21 years of age or older before delivery of the wine.