Delaware General Assembly Pre-Game Show: Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Filed in National by on March 12, 2013

Coming off its six-week break for Joint Finance Committee, the Delaware General Assembly begins in earnest its legislative sprint to…Easter break, three weeks hence.

At least, this should prove to be an action-packed three weeks–especially when it comes to the introduction of key bills. Assuming that the Attorney General’s and the Governor’s legal counsel are productive, we could well have the major pieces of the gun control package finalized and introduced. Marriage equality could also surface.  We’ll also get a much better sense as to what budgetary issues remain to be resolved.

Plus, we don’t need to wait for some intriguing story lines to develop. Take today, for example.  Sen. Karen Peterson will join with the ACLU and other legislators in calling for the repeal of Delaware’s death penalty statute. While I’m not aware of the legislation having been introduced yet, the proposal would reportedly call for those 17 convicts currently on death row to have their sentences changed to life in prison. This will be a fascinating debate.

Speaking of convicted felons and debates, HB 10 (Keeley), which would immediately restore voting rights to convicted felons who have paid their debt to society, is scheduled for floor debate. This is the second leg of a constitutional amendment, meaning that it has already passed both houses of the General Assembly during the preceding legislative session. Should it pass this time, it will become law. I think it will. In fact, the only obstacle that could stand in the way of its passage would be  near-unanimous  opposition from House R’s. With Republican Rep. Don Blakey a certain yes, I don’t see it happening. And, with Senators Lavelle and Cloutier co-sponsoring the bill, the Senate looks solid as well.

The bill  “eliminates the existing five-year waiting period before eligible felons who have fully discharged their sentences may have their voting rights restored.”  In other words, eligible felons would have already discharged their sentences, but they wouldn’t have to wait an additional five years.

Here is today’s House agenda. Check out HB 3 (Briggs King).  I just don’t get it. Actually, I do. Delaware is un-flipping-believable. HB 3 would outlaw ticket scalping for concert events at the Delaware State Fair. I had vaguely remembered that the State had enacted ticket-scalping legislation many years ago. Turns out that I was right–and I was wrong. Back in 1995, the General Assembly indeed did enact legislation against ticket scalping. However, it turns out that this was not all-purpose legislation. In addition to prohibiting the scalping of tickets while standing alongside state/federal highways, the bill banned the practice only for events at the Bob Carpenter Center, and for, wait for it, NASCAR races at Dover Downs. So. HB 3 would add concerts at the Delaware State Fair to the anti-scalping list.  Can Firefly be far behind? What about that Boz Scaggs show at Dover Downs? In other words, if you’re gonna do it, why do it piecemeal?

For those of you battling insomnia, I have a sure cure in the form of HB 8(Walker). Bills like this, ‘this’ meaning that you are neither expected nor encouraged to understand, ‘you’ meaning legislators, fly through the General Assembly with casual frequency.

The Senate agenda is currently unofficial, and not particularly compelling.

We have some s-s-s-serious committee meetings scheduled this week. Probably most notable is Wednesday’s House Judiciary Committee meeting. The committee is scheduled to consider HB 35 (Longhurst), which would require criminal background checks for virtually all Delaware firearms transactions. Introduced last week, HB 35 is the first of what should prove to be several major pieces of gun control legislation this session. Special shoutout to Republican Rep. Mike Ramone, the only R sponsor of the bill.

Here is the full schedule of House committee meetings. Here’s what intrigues me the most:

The House Business Supplicant Committee (not its real name) considers HB 31 (Heffernan) which, I assume, would help our micro-brewers. The bill ‘permits off-premises consumption licensees who obtain a Growler Filler permit to purchase kegs or partial kegs from wholesalers and fill and cap containers for the customer to consume off of the premises where sold’. Dunno what it means, but ‘Growler Filler’ strikes me as a damn fine name for an indie band.

The House Gaming and Parimutuels Committee will discuss what to do with those pesky gambling machines in those VFW’s and their, wait for it, ilk.

Real good bill from Rep. Hudson in the House Education Committee. HB 23 would ‘require(s) that all public meetings of the boards of education of traditional public school districts, vo-tech school districts, and public meetings of charter schools’ boards of directors be digitally recorded and made available to the public on the districts’ and charter schools’ websites within seven business days’. Apparently, only three, count ’em, three districts even voluntarily comply with this standard now.

The House House Administration Committee (I feel stupid every time I type that, but that’s the committee’s name) considers Rep. Jaques’ ‘No Excuse Absentee Ballot’ legislation. This is the first leg of a constitutional amendment that would eliminate the requirement that you must come up with an excuse to vote absentee. Excellent bill, featuring many of Delaware’s most progressive legislators as co-sponsors.

Before we move across the Hall, I’d like to make a respectful request to the House. In the past, you have provided direct links to bills in committee. For the most part, those are not being provided, at least for this week’s meetings. Accordingly, the public must take the bill number, go to the Legislative Council bill-tracker, and type in the number to access the bill. I, for one, would be most appreciative if you could provide the link directly on the committee agenda listing. Thanks in advance!

Here is the complete list of Senate committee meetings this week. Here’s what catches my eye:

The Senate Community/County Affairs Committee will consider SB 7 (Marshall), which would provide for the direct election of Wilmington’s auditor. Only Sen. Marshall and Rep. Brady have signed on as sponsors, which makes me wonder whether the Dennis P. Williams contingent of legislators is not exactly enamored of this idea.

Sen. Dave Lawson’s (R-Guns ‘n Ammo) Rube Goldberg-esque proposal to, I don’t know, dig a series of tunnels and create a series of safe rooms, etc., to avoid school snipers (and avoid legislation banning snipers’ assault weapons) gets its hearing in the Senate Education Committee. The sponsors of this bill comprise the Four Huntsmen of the Apocalypse. Check ’em out.

Sen. Bob Marshall’s minimum wage increase legislation will be considered in the Senate Labor Committee. So far, crickets from the Governor’s office. The bill has a chance to pass with, or without, the Governor’s support. However, the Governor’s support would help to ensure that the bill doesn’t get buried in a house committee yet again this year. Which, BTW, is precisely what the Governor wanted to happen to the minimum wage increase last year, and that’s what he got.

To the Senate: Like the House, would you please link directly to the bills in the committee meeting notices? Oh, and there’s something called the ‘Senator McBride Meeting’ on the Senate Committee Notice this week. Something tells me that it’s likely a committee chaired by Sen. McBride, but there’s no legislation listed to give me a clue.

Folks, I mention this b/c staffing of committees is often done by Legislative Fellows, primarily from the University of Delaware. These are generally outstanding individuals who bring a lot to the General Assembly. However, it’s early in the year, meaning there are still some wrinkles to be ironed out.

Speaking of which, Al Mascitti and I will be ironing out some wrinkles on Al’s show today from 10 am to 12 noon on WDEL-AM Newsradio 1150. Based on what I’ve read, I expect some strong discussion and perhaps disagreement on the Port of Wilmington negotiations. Which will make for great radio. All this and my thoughts on the demise of Paul Bearer today at 10. Don’t miss it!

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  1. cassandra_m says:

    SB 19, which would repeal the Death Penalty and replace it with Life Without Parole gets introduced today in Dover.

  2. SussexWatcher says:

    HB 23 should be the standard for every public body in the state. Additionally, members of the public body should be required to introduce themselves at the beginning of each meeting so people listening later can determine who’s speaking.

  3. Just a note–the House Democratic Caucus is now posting its agendas and committee meeting notices on Facebook and Twitter.

    Being anti-social, I had no idea.

  4. puck says:

    Somebody should inform them Facebook and Twitter are private forums, and tell them to post their info on the public Internet. Unless a private forum is what they want.

  5. Puck: They’ve always posted on the public General Assembly website since we’ve had the internet. This is in addition to, not in lieu of. Designed to reach more people, that’s all.

    In fact, the legislative links that I provide in the articles are all to the public General Assembly website.

  6. puck says:

    I see – thanks. It’s “in addition to.”

  7. PBaumbach says:

    The death penalty repeal bill is SB19, not SB9. It is online, with a hearing on the 20th I believe.

  8. cassandra_m says:

    Thanks Paul, I fixed that. Typing without my glasses on again.

  9. I was very pleased with the bipartisan/cross-house support demonstrated in yesterday’s rally at LegHall.

    The repeal campaign has been doing a great job.

  10. KilroysDelaware says:

    re: HB#23

    HB#23 is a bipartisan piece of legislation that Kilroy requested and lobbied for. Many parents don’t have time to attend board meetings and the recordings will ne halpful. Also, because the recording aren’t official board minutes they are released within a week of the meeting whereas minutes take about 45 days because they need to be approved by the board and t he “next” month’s meeting. The recording allow parents and the public to weigh in on certain issues before a board vote. The recordings are even helpful to legislators to stay on top local school issues.

    The State Board of Education has been recording their meetings since 8/2011 which also was required by law, Hudson was very supportive in my request and lobbying for that “bipartisan” legislation.

    It took me two years or more of dogging Red Clay to record their meetings! That action was an administrative call whereas, Christina’s was a board action. Capital school district joined the movement.

    “Additionally, members of the public body should be required to introduce themselves at the beginning of each meeting so people listening later can determine who’s speaking.”

    When there are presentations to the board you’ll hear such announcement as who is giving the presentations. Perhaps if a roll-call of members were verbally taken at the beginning of the meeting could be helpful. As for me, between reviewing minutes and listening often I can figure out who is who. I’ll pass the idea of taking a verbal roll-call for the purpose of voice identification onto Red Clay and I am sure John Young sees this and will consider for Christina.

  11. KilroysDelaware says:

    “I was very pleased with the bipartisan/cross-house support demonstrated in yesterday’s rally at LegHall.”

    Paul I agree! Also, I like to say, issues in Washington often divides the people and political parties but home is where the heart is. If we can’t promote and demand bipartisanship in our home state we’ll “never” see it in Washington. When people forget or have to ask which party a Delaware state legislator is that’s a good thing! The D’s and R’s represent the people first and must find the common ground to meet the consensus of the people fairly. I’ve lobbied both sides in gaining support for HB#23 and legislation requiring the state board of education to do the same and also for modifying the school board oath of office.

  12. Geezer says:

    On the death penalty: For what it’s worth, the state did its best to send Tom Capano for a ride on Ol’ Drowsy; it was the US Supreme Court that spared him, based on the lone juror who voted Capano should get life in prison.

  13. Dave says:

    “Speaking of convicted felons and debates, HB 10 (Keeley), which would immediately restore voting rights to convicted felons who have paid their debt to society, is scheduled for floor debate.”

    Are there other constraints on convicted felons who have fully paid their debt? Does “fully paid” mean off probation as well? What I’m wondering about is what’s the fundamental principle or philosophy involved. Are fully paid former felons allowed to own guns, for example? How about those convicted of sex crimes against children (pedos)?

    Are there legitimate constraints in the case of some offenses? Maybe the fundamental question I’m asking is whether there are crimes for which someone can never be “fully paid” even though someone has served their sentence?

    To short circuit the outrage, I have no objection to HB 10, I’m just asking a larger philosophical question about society and disenfranchisement of some of its citizens. Juveniles have their records sealed because they have the advantage of being young and foolish, but it seems adults are forever tainted and saddled with constraints. I don’t object to the constraints necessarily, I’m just trying to fit this into concept of “fully paid” and the restoration of rights by asking whether there are limits to that and if there are, why?