What’s New in Delaware’s Legislature?

In January 2013, the 147th General Assembly convened. The assembly spans two legislative sessions. The first session closed on June 30, 2013; the second session will run from January through June 2014. Any bill introduced in 2013 but not fully considered or acted upon during the first session of the General Assembly remains active and can be considered in 2014.

VICTORY!

House Bill 10—The Hazel D. Plant Voter Restoration Act, the second leg of a constitutional amendment, passed and became law in May. This change eliminates the five year waiting period that someone convicted of a felony but who has completed their prison sentence and all other obligations to the state must wait before having their voting rights restored.

Senate Bill 75— Marriage equality legislation was signed into law in May. The law establishes marriage for couples of the same gender and provides them with the same rights and responsibilities as opposite gender couples. It went into effect on July 1, 2013.

Senate Bill 97— Discrimination and hate crimes against people based on their gender identity or expression is now illegal in Delaware. Senate Bill 97 was a necessary fix to the LGB non-discrimination bill passed in 2009 and the hate crimes legislation of 2001, neither of which offered protection to transgender people.

A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

Senate Bill 9— SB 9, which eliminated mandatory life without parole for children convicted of first degree murder, brought Delaware into technical compliance with the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Miller v. Alabama (2012). The law also allows those who were under 18 years of age when the crime was committed to petition the court for a sentence review every five years after they have served 20 years for any crime other than first degree murder, and after serving 30 years for a first degree murder conviction.

Credit: Alexander Raths

House Bill 182— This gave the Family Court full discretion regarding juvenile sex-offender registration for children under the age of fourteen years at the time of their offense. For those aged 14-17, the court was allowed partial discretion to determine whether a child convicted of a lesser offense of a sexual nature would be required to register. Serious offenses committed by those 14 years and older, such as those that require registration under the federal Adam Walsh Act, would still require registration.

INTRODUCED, BUT STALLED

Senate Bill 19— Repeal of the Death Penalty passed the Senate but is held up in the House Judiciary Committee.

House Bill 105— Same Day Voter Registration was introduced and passed out of the House Administration Committee. However, it has not yet been brought up for a vote on the House floor. Same day voter registration is the single best action a state can take to increase voter participation. Please speak to your elected officials about supporting HB 105.

House Bill 167— “Ban the Box” legislation would prohibit state agencies from asking about felony convictions at the first stage of a job application. It has not yet received a committee hearing.

House Bill 20— This is a constitutional amendment that would allow the state to loosen our current absentee voting rules and make it easier for more people to participate in elections. The bill passed out of the House Administration Committee on its merits but was defeated on the House floor by a 27 yea to 14 nay strict party line vote; not one Democrat voted against the bill and not one Republican supported it. A two-thirds majority is needed to pass a constitutional amendment.

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