The Leg Hall Insider: April 12, 2013

Bill Establishing Marriage Equality Filed in Delaware

Dozens of lawmakers, officials and advocates gathered Thursday at Freedom Plaza in Wilmington to unveil legislation that would make Delaware the 10th state to establish marriage equality.

House Bill 75 would establish civil marriage equality for all Delaware families by allowing same-sex couples to marry. Under the bill, same-sex married couples would have the same rights, protections, responsibilities and obligations as opposite-sex married persons under Delaware law. Same-sex couples would be able to apply for marriage licenses from the clerks of the peace.

Rep. Melanie George Smith, pictured with members of the clergy and Equality Delaware, says today is a good day to be a Delawarean

House sponsor Rep. Melanie George Smith said the legislation is about freedom, fairness and equality. The freedom to marry the person you love, she said, is a basic, fundamental right that should not be denied to anyone. HB 75 would protect religious freedom by explicitly stating that no clergyperson or minister of any religious denomination will ever be required to perform or solemnize any marriage, including a same-sex marriage, that does not conform with his or her religious beliefs.

More than 20 legislators have signed on as co-sponsors to HB 75, which has been assigned to the House Administration Committee. The committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the measure next week.

View video from Thursday’s event on our caucus Facebook page.

Rep. Mitchell Proposes Tougher Punishments for Criminals Who Use Guns

This week, Rep. Larry Mitchell joined Attorney General Beau Biden and other colleagues to announce several proposals that will be introduced when the House goes back into session next week.

As a former New Castle County Police Officer, Rep. Mitchell says harsher punishment for criminals will curb gun violence.

The first bill would impose a one-year mandatory sentence for those convicted of unlawfully carrying a concealed firearm. A second measure would impose a minimum jail sentence on all adults previously convicted of a felony who commit a gun offense, even if an adult was a juvenile for his or her first conviction.

Rep. Mitchell’s proposals represent an effort to combat gun violence by imposing severe consequences for criminals who use guns.

Lawmakers Oppose Delmarva Power’s Rate Increase Request

Declaring that recession-recovering families cannot afford it, lawmakers and advocates representing low-, middle- and fixed-income Delawareans joined together this week to protest Delmarva Power’s latest request to increase electric rates by $42 million.

Caption: Rep. John Kowalko speaks out against the rate increase request, joined by (from L to R) Rep. Helene Keeley, Rep. James “J.J.” Johnson and Rep. Charles Potter, Jr. Not pictured but also present: Rep. Stephanie T. Bolden and Rep. Ed Osienski

A bipartisan coalition of 20 representatives sent a letter to the Public Service Commission Tuesday objecting to Delmarva Power’s persistent filings for rate increases. Delmarva’s latest request is its third request in a three-year span to increase electric service rates and has sparked public outcry in Delaware.

“These requests, along with $25 million to replace obsolete smart meters, total approximately $130 million. The three latest approved increases totaled approximately $70 million, which have been borne by struggling households,” the letter states. “The requested $42 million rate increase, representing a 19.6-percent increase on the delivery side of the bill, would be yet another dramatic rise in ratepayers’ bills and is very alarming. As our state slowly recovers from recession, Delaware families do not have the resources to pay more for electricity every time Delmarva Power asks for a rate increase. In light of this fact, we oppose this latest request in the interest of low-, middle- and fixed-income families who simply cannot afford it.”

Reps. John Atkins, Paul Baumbach, Andria Bennett, Donald Blakey, Stephanie T. Bolden, Gerald Brady, Debra Heffernan, Earl Jaques, James “J.J.” Johnson, Helene Keeley, John Kowalko, Valerie Longhurst, Joseph Miro, Larry Mitchell, Michael Mulrooney, Ed Osienski, Charles Potter, Jr., Michael Ramone, Kim Williams and John Viola all signed the letter to the Public Service Commission.