Plastic bag ban strengthened in Delaware

No more thick reusables allowed
July 2, 2021

Delaware’s latest plastic bag ban, passed June 29, means no more thick bags passed out at the grocery stores.

The state’s 2019 ban on single-use plastic bags went into effect Jan. 1, but many stores simply handed out thicker bags – an exemption allowed under the original bill.

House Bill 212 updates Delaware’s plastic bag ban by specifying that “reusable bags” means those that are made of durable fabric and have stitched handles. Although a previous version of the bill had allowed for reusable plastic bags at least 10 mils thick, that exemption was removed by House Amendment 1. The new law also covers all non-restaurant retail establishments, regardless of size. The change would go into effect July 1, 2022.

The bill would retain certain exceptions to the plastic bag prohibition, including: plastic bags used to wrap meat, fish, flowers or potted plants, or that contain loose items; bags that contain live animals; bags used to transport chemical pesticides, bakery goods or prepared foods; and bags placed over articles of clothing on a hanger. 

“Delaware took an important first step in 2019 when we banned single-use plastic bags in large retail and chain stores. But now, we are poised to take an even bigger leap forward by removing single-use plastic bags from all retail stores throughout the state, a move that will have a measurable, positive impact on our environment,” said Rep. Gerald Brady, D-Wilmington West, the lead sponsor of HB 212.

The bill passed the Senate 11-10 June 29; it passed the House June 23 by a 28-12 vote with one not voting. The bill now heads to Gov. John Carney for his signature. 

Legislature approves Juneteenth as state holiday

Already a federal holiday, June 19 is known as Juneteenth – the day when enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, were finally notified of their freedom under the Emancipation Proclamation in 1865. It was unanimously approved by the General Assembly as a state holiday June 30.

Once signed into law by Gov. John Carney, House Bill 119 will officially make Juneteenth the newest of Delaware’s 13 annual statewide holidays. Juneteenth will occupy the fourth spot in the calendar year, falling between Good Friday and July 4. Juneteenth will be celebrated on the preceding Friday or following Monday in any year when the holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday. 

HB 119 also reduces the number of floating holidays in the state calendar from two to one. These days, first introduced by the 145th General Assembly, replaced Presidents Day and Columbus Day. 

Publicizing police misconduct moves through Legislature

A bill that would make information about police misconduct allegations and the names of decertified police officers publicly accessible passed the Legislature June 29.

House Joint Resolution sponsored by Speaker of the House Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth, directs the Criminal Justice Council to publish integrity reports on the number of complaints made against each law enforcement agency in the state, starting in November 2021. The resolution also would require the CJC to publish and update a searchable list of all police officers who have been decertified in Delaware in the previous 10 years.  

“Publishing reports of complaints by agency and a list of decertified officers will for the first time make this information more easily accessible to the public and provide more data for residents to know more about the police agencies that serve their communities,” said Schwartzkopf, a retired Delaware State Police captain. “There is no single silver bullet to addressing police reform; we must take a series of steps forward toward improving transparency and accountability. This measure is another piece of a larger puzzle of reforming our criminal justice system to improve policing and ensure the system works the way it is intended.” 

The bill awaits Carney’s signature to become law.

Mandatory interrogation recordings required by bill

A bill that would require police to record interrogations of anyone in their custody, regardless of whether that person has been charged with a crime, passed the General Assembly on June 29.

House Bill 215 has some exceptions, but largely requires law enforcement officers to record audio and video in most circumstances, including through the use of body-worn cameras. Interrogation subjects could refuse to participate in recordings at any time; refusals would have to be recorded in writing or on video. The bill also directs the Council on Police Training to adopt standards and rules regarding the use of recording devices and the chain of custody that must be followed.  

Child prosecution bill passes General Assembly

A bill that ends the prosecution of children younger than 12, except for the most serious charges, passed the General Assembly on June 29.

The bill also bars transferring juveniles under the age of 16 to Superior Court.

Under the bill, juveniles under 12 could only be criminally charged with serious offenses such as murder, first- or second-degree rape, or using a firearm. Juveniles under 12 who otherwise would be charged with less serious offenses would be referred to the Juvenile Civil Citation Program. 

Juvenile mugshots universally prohibited

A bill that would prohibit law enforcement from publishing mugshots of juveniles passed the General Assembly on June 29.

Publication includes social media pages or websites. The exception is when a juvenile is charged with a violent felony and the release of their photograph is necessary to protect the public’s safety. The bill covers all of Delaware’s law enforcement entities.

Underage possession bill passes

The General Assembly June 29 passed a bill that provides more discretion in cases involving underage possession of alcohol and marijuana by juveniles.

House Bill 241 allows officers to refer a minor to the Juvenile Civil Citation Program in place of assessing a monetary civil penalty.

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