The Leg Hall Insider: April 5, 2013

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Legislators Host Delaware State University Choir

The House of Representatives welcomed the Delaware State University Choir to the chamber last week for a special
performance. The sound filled the whole building and the choir’s visit was a true treat for legislators and staff alike.

House Passes Bill Requiring Background Checks for All Gun Sales

Before the House recessed last week, the chamber passed legislation that will require background checks for virtually all gun sales. Currently, background checks are only required for firearm purchases at gun stores. Private sales can be conducted without any background check. House Bill 35 primarily targets those private sales, effectively closing a loophole in which persons prohibited can circumvent gun stores and legally purchase a firearm without a background check.

HB 35 was amended to address legitimate concerns raised during public testimony at a committee hearing last month. The amended bill passed the House 24-17 and now heads to the Senate for consideration. Amendments that background check supporters incorporated into the bill include:

  • Explicitly providing that the state shall not establish a system of firearm registration;
  • Exempting from the background check requirement persons who have a valid concealed carry permit;
  • Reducing the maximum fee a dealer can charge for a background check from $50 to $30;
  • Providing that transfer records cannot be disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act;
  • Allowing persons with “bona fide” religious objections to photo IDs to undergo fingerprint background checks through the State Bureau of Identification, addressing concerns voiced by the Amish community;
  • Exempting sales of curios and relics to licensed collectors;
  • Providing due process for firearms dealers.

House sponsor Rep. Valerie Longhurst noted that the amendments show a willingness to listen to the public’s concerns and seek consensus on those issues. The bill is one step in a series of efforts to prevent persons prohibited – which include felons and people with mental illnesses – from obtaining firearms.

Multiple groups, including Delaware State Troopers Association, Delaware State Education Association, Delaware Police Chiefs Council and Delaware Coalition Against Gun Violence, support the measure.

HB 35 awaits action in the Senate when the General Assembly returns April 16.

Click here for more information.

Bennett Bill Would Protect Children from Identity Theft

Rep. Andria Bennett introduced legislation last week that would protect children from identity thieves who increasingly target minors and destroy their credit before they are even old enough to purchase a car.

Although traditional identity fraud has typically involved one adult stealing another adult’s Social Security number in order to pose as that person, identity thieves have started favoring new tactics that target children, who are particularly vulnerable. The newer form of identity theft, called synthetic identity theft, involves an adult stealing a social security number and creating a fake identity with which they open a line of credit.

When a person opens a credit card account, the card issuer runs a search for their Social Security number to find out the person’s credit score. While a bank or another issuer of a large line of credit might pay an extra fee for further research into the Social Security number, retailers issuing low-limit credit lines typically avoid the extra cost and instead simply open a new account unknowingly associated with a child’s Social Security number.

House Bill 64 would enable parents and guardians to freeze their children’s credit until they are 16 years old. This would prohibit a consumer reporting agency from releasing the child’s consumer record or report and prevent someone from opening a line of credit using their Social Security number.

HB 64 has been assigned to the House Economic Development, Banking, Insurance and Commerce.

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Oil Liability Bill Clears Committee Hurdle

Legislation eliminating a 35-year-old monetary cap on the fine that can be imposed for oil spills cleared the House Natural Resources Committee last week and is on its way to the full House for a vote.

Sponsored by House Majority Leader Rep. Valerie Longhurst, House Bill 32 would update Delaware’s Oil Pollution Act to make it consistent with federal law and remove liability limits for oil spills, a limit that was established in 1977 and has not been adjusted for inflation. Currently, Delaware’s liability limits are well below federal limits.

Oil spills are infrequent in the Delaware River and Bay, but there have been some incidents throughout the last 40 years. The largest spill was the Corinthos in 1975, when 11 million gallons were spilled at Marcus Hook. In a one-year period starting in September 1985, three separate spills dumped more than 900,000 gallons of crude oil into the Delaware River. And in 2004, the Athos I spilled 265,000 gallons of oil – less than 2 percent of its 19.4 million gallon cargo – into the Delaware River.

While notable oil spills have been confined to Delaware’s waters, the bill also would eliminate the fine cap for spills that occur on land.

Surrounding states Maryland and Pennsylvania have unlimited liability, while Virginia has unlimited liability for cleanup and a $10 million limit on damages.

Click here for more information.