Legislative wrap

March 29, 2021
Gun-safety bills introduced in Senate

Two bills intended to promote public safety were introduced in the state Senate March 25.

Senate Bill 3 would require residents to complete firearm training and obtain a permit before purchasing a handgun; Senate Bill 6 would outlaw the sale of large-capacity magazines capable of holding more than 17 rounds. The bill also would create a buyback program. 

Marijuana bill moves through committee

A bill that would legalize marijuana in Delaware moved through committee March 24.

House Bill 150 would make it legal for those 21 and older to buy marijuana, and provide licenses for businesses to grow, manufacture, and sell the product. Under the bill, funding opportunities will be available for communities and people who have been adversely affected by drug laws or the illegal marijuana business.

The bill moved out of the House Health & Human Development Committee and awaits action in the full House.

Minimum wage bill passes Senate

A bill that would increase Delaware's minimum wage passed the Senate March 18 by a 14-7 vote.

Senate Bill 15 would increase Delaware's minimum wage to $10.50 an hour by Jan. 1, 2022, and continue to incrementally increase it each year until it reaches $15 an hour by Jan. 1, 2025. The current minimum wage is $9.25 an hour.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jack Walsh, D-Stanton, has no Sussex County sponsors. It has been assigned to the House Economic Development/Banking/Insurance and Commerce Committee.

Feminine hygiene product bill awaits Senate action

A bill that would require public schools to provide feminine hygiene products for free in at least half of a building's bathrooms unanimously passed March 25 in the Senate.

House Bill 20 would require all public and charter schools that serve students in grades 6-12 to provide free products, and post notices listing bathrooms that include them.

The bill unanimously passed the House and now awaits Gov. John Carney’s signature.


Bill to create new crimes for untraceable guns

A bill that would establish new crimes for undetectable guns or those made with a 3-D printer awaits action in the House.

House Bill 125 would create a class E felony for possession of an unfinished firearm, and a class D felony for manufacturing an untraceable firearm or distributing a firearm using a 3-D printer.

The bill also makes it a crime to possess a firearm frame or receiver with a removed, obliterated, or altered serial number.

Exceptions are made for certain guns manufactured before 1968, muzzleloaders that only use black powder, and antique replicas. The bill does not apply to members of the military or police force in Delaware who are authorized to carry an untraceable firearm, and does not apply to manufacture or importation for sale to a law-enforcement or military entity in Delaware.

The bill moved out of the House Administration Committee March 16.

Microbrewery bill moves out of committee

A bill that would allow two or more microbreweries to share brewing equipment as long as they maintain separate premises has moved through a House committee.

House Bill 81, sponsored by Rep. Paul Baumbach, D-Newark, and also Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes, was voted out of the Economic Development/Banking/Insurance and Commerce Committee March 9 and is now on the ready list for consideration in the full House.

Water purification bill awaits action in House

A bill that would create a two-year pilot program to issue grants for installing residential drinking water purification systems awaits action in the House.

House Bill 69 was voted out of the Health and Human Development Committee March 10 and is now on the ready list for consideration in the full House.

Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes, is also a sponsor of the bill.

Bill to amend abortion law

A bill that would repeal some provisions of Delaware's abortion law awaits action in the House.

House Bill 31 eliminates the treatment of abortion differently from other medical procedures, and would end the criminalization of women and the sale of medical devices and medicines.

The bill eliminates abortion as a class F felony for someone who performs an abortion on another, and self-abortion as a class A misdemeanor. The bill also eliminates charges against someone who issues or sells abortion instruments or drugs.

The bill was moved out of committee March 10, and is on the ready list in the House.

Epinephrine bill to provide autoinjectors

A bill that would require all insurance plans to provide coverage for epinephrine autoinjectors for those 18 and younger awaits action in the House.

Insurance plans include individual, group, state and public assistance.

Senate Bill 55 unanimously passed the Senate on March 17.

Bill would suspend criminally charged school board members

A bill that would require background checks for school board candidates and suspend those serving who have been criminally charged awaits action in a Senate committee.

Senate Bill 78 enhances qualifications for an individual to serve on a school board by requiring a prospective candidate to undergo a background check from the State Bureau of Identification. Under the bill, anyone serving on a school board would be suspended if they are charged with a crime that would disqualify them from holding office if convicted.

The bill awaits action in the Senate Education Committee.

More funding proposed for state horse racing programs

A bill that would boost Delaware horse racing programs unanimously passed the Senate March 16.

Senate Bill 29 would add $1.25 million from the state to the Delaware Standardbred Breeder's Program, and $500,000 for the Delaware Certified Thoroughbred Program.

The bill awaits action in the House Gaming & Parimutuels Committee.

House bill seeks to increase reportable car crash amounts

A bill that would increase the minimum amount of property damage in a car crash that is required to be reported to police unanimously passed the House March 18 and awaits action in a Senate committee.

House Bill 28, sponsored by Speaker of the House Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth, raises the minimum mandatory reportable amount in a vehicular collision from $500 to $2,000. The bill also increases the minimum amount of property damage requiring police agencies to investigate from $1,000 to $2,000. The bill awaits action in the Senate Transportation Committee.

Probation before judgment expands under bill

A bill allowing probation before judgment for more than one charge, and its use more than once in a five-year period awaits action in the House.

Senate Bill 39 would allow probation before judgment for multiple charges stemming from a single arrest. PBJ would also be able to be used more than once in a five-year period as long as the offenses are in different titles of Delaware code. For example, someone given PBJ for speeding in 2017 would qualify for PBJ if charged in 2019 with writing a bad check or underage drinking.

The bill also allows an adjudicated juvenile to be eligible for PBJ.

The Senate unanimously passed the bill March 11.

Balloon bill passed by Senate

A bill meant to address balloon litter would fine anyone who releases up to four balloons $25, with fines increasing for subsequent violations.

Senate Bill 24 intends to reduce the number of balloons filled with air or lighter-than-air gases that end up in the environment, blight communities, and cause harm to wildlife and marine animals.

For those releasing five or more balloons, fines would increase to $250 along with up to eight hours of community service.

The Senate passed the bill 19-1 with one not voting on March 11. It was reported out of the House Natural Resources Committee on March 17.

Pledge of Allegiance bill tabled

A bill that would remove criminal penalties for teachers who fail to require students to salute and pledge allegiance to the flag has been tabled in committee.

House Bill 107 would amend Delaware law related to First Amendment rights of public school students. Current Delaware law, which requires teachers and students to salute and pledge allegiance to the American flag every morning, is unconstitutional because it is coercive, the bill states.

This bill, sponsored by Rep. Paul Baumbach, D-Newark, preserves the requirement that students have the opportunity to salute and pledge allegiance to the American flag each school day but revises the code so the requirement complies with the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

It was tabled in the House Education Committee on March 17.

Quarantine bill remains in committee

A bill that would require a court order before quarantining of individuals or a group remains in committee.

Senate Bill 58, sponsored by Sens. Dave Lawson, R-Marydel, and Brian Pettyjohn, R-Georgetown, would remove the state's authority to forcibly isolate, quarantine, vaccinate, or treat individuals against their will for COVID-19 during a state of emergency relating to COVID-19. A written order from Superior Court would be required before a public safety authority could isolate or quarantine a group.

The bill was introduced Feb. 12 and assigned to the Senate Executive Committee.

Bill requires legislative approval for extended states of emergency

A bill that would require the Legislature to approve extended states of emergency awaits action in committee.

House Bill 49, sponsored by Rep. Rich Collins, R-Millsboro, recognizes the governor's statutory authority to act in the event of an emergency or disaster, but during protracted emergencies and disasters which last more than 30 days, General Assembly approval would be needed for renewal. This approval requirement may be waived only when it is not possible for both houses of the General Assembly to convene a quorum. The governor retains the authority to terminate emergency orders without approval when the emergency or disaster has passed. Any new nonweather-related emergency order issued within six months of the termination of a prior order and based upon substantially similar reasons shall be invalid unless approved by the General Assembly. Additionally, any nonweather-related emergency order that requires the closure of any business, industry, religious, or nonprofit facility must specifically delineate which type of businesses or facilities are to be closed.

The bill was introduced Jan. 7 and awaits action in the House Administration Committee.

Electric vehicle bill establishes charging fee

A bill that would create a fee for charging electric vehicles at state facilities awaits action in a House committee after clearing the Senate 20-1 on Jan. 28.

Senate Bill 21 would amend the Delaware Energy Act by creating more accessible electric vehicle infrastructure, and allow state agencies to charge a fee for public or employee use.

The fees would not exceed the agency's costs, and the bill limits sites to state-owned or state-leased properties.

The bill awaits action in the House Energy Committee.

Automatic voter registration through DMV sought

A bill that would automatically register anyone receiving a license or identification card at the Division of Motor Vehicles as a voter was introduced March 11.

Senate Bill 5 would create an automatic voter registration system at the DMV and grant the state election commissioner the authority to implement automatic voter registration at other state agencies that already offer voter registration services.

An unregistered adult citizen eligible to register who provides proof of U.S. citizenship during a DMV license or identification card transaction would be automatically registered to vote by the Department of Elections.

People who register to vote under this automatic system but do not identify a specific political party would be able to affiliate at the polls during the primary election immediately following their registration.

Unregistered individuals who do not provide proof of U.S. citizenship or proof of non-citizenship during a license or identification card transaction would be offered the opportunity to register to vote during the DMV transaction only if they affirm citizenship and other eligibility requirements, consistent with federal law requirements and existing law.

The bill awaits action in the Senate Elections & Government Affairs Committee.

Bill increases tax on highest earners

A bill that would create four income brackets with higher tax rates for the state's wealthiest earners awaits action in committee.

House Bill 64, sponsored by Rep. John Kowalko, D-Newark, creates four tax brackets for those annually earning $60,000 to $125,000; $125,000 to $250,000; $250,000 to $500,000; and over $500,000.

Those who make $60,000-$125,000 would pay a tax rate of 6.6 percent; $125,000-$250,000 would pay 7.1 percent; $250,000 to $500,000 would pay 7.85 percent; and those making more than $500,000 would be taxed 8.6 percent.

The current top tax rate is 6.6 percent for anyone making more than $60,000 per year.

The bill was introduced in January and awaits action in the House Revenue & Finance Committee.

Hair discrimination targeted in bill

A bill that prohibits discrimination based on a person's hairstyle unanimously passed the Senate and awaits action in the House.

Senate Bill 32 protects hairstyles that include braids, locks and twists so anyone with those hairstyles cannot be discriminated against.

State contracts for public works would be required to follow the law, according to the bill.

The bill passed the Senate on Jan. 21, and awaits action in the House.

Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter