The Leg Hall Insider: January 11, 2013

New Beginnings, History Mark Start of 147th

House members were sworn into office this week as the 147th General Assembly officially got under way. Rehoboth Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf took the oath of office as Speaker of the House after being elected to the post by his colleagues.

In an historic first, a father-daughter pair will serve in the General Assembly simultaneously. New Dover Rep. Andria L. Bennett and Newark Rep. John Viola were sworn in together to mark this occasion.

'Revolving Door' Legislation for Outgoing Lawmakers Filed

Rep. John A. Kowalko filed legislation this week that would close the "revolving door" that allows lawmakers to leave their offices and immediately start lobbying former colleagues.

Rep. Kowalko said that the bill would help change the perception that legislators have ulterior motives while in office and restore the public's trust. Establishing the one-year restriction would demonstrate legislators are serious about serving the public interest while in office.

Under House Bill 13, legislators would have to wait one year after leaving the General Assembly before they would be permitted to lobby current legislators. Violating the proposed law would be an unclassified misdemeanor. The measure would apply to any legislator serving after January 1, 2015, which would exclude any lawmakers who leave office at the end of the 147th General Assembly in 2014.

Read more.

'Children of Alcoholics Week' Resolution Passed

House Majority Leader Rep. Valerie Longhurst (left) introduced a resolution this week to proclaim the week of February 10-16 as “Children of Alcoholics Week.” She spoke on the floor about being a child of an alcoholic mother and explained why children of alcoholics need extra support. Rep. Longhurst also introduced and thanked Suzie Stayle, an honorary board member of the Delaware Association for Children of Alcoholics and an active member of the Association since its inception 25 years ago. House Concurrent Resolution 1 passed both the House and Senate.

Message from the Speaker

Happy New Year and thank you for your interest in the Delaware House of Representatives. I would like to first thank the residents of the 14th District for electing me to my sixth term. I also am privileged that my colleagues elected me Speaker of the House for the 147th General Assembly. I have tremendous respect for the institution and I am looking forward to leading the House of Representatives for the next two years.

The General Assembly faces many important policy decisions this year. First and foremost, we will have to work together to develop and pass a balanced budget that maintains critical services. A major consideration in budget discussions during the next six months will be whether to extend the sunset provisions on several 2009 tax increases that are set to expire this year. We will need to find creative solutions to ensure our state’s fiscal health while still providing the needed services to Delawareans.

The Legislature will also face questions about slot machines in private nonprofit clubs like VFW and American Legion halls. In the wake of recent mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, a movie theater in Colorado and even Tucson two years ago, legislators will be discussing how to address gun control and mental health issues. These are complex, serious issues and we will work together to pass responsible legislation that protects all Delawareans.

-Pete Schwartzkopf

Legislative Wrap-Up

The following bills were introduced in the House this week:

HB 11 (J. Johnson) -- Permits employees trained by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to obtain biological samples.
Status: Assigned to House Administration Committee

HB 15 (Mitchell) -- Designates all three units of Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control law enforcement as “Natural Resources Police Officers”, thereby streamlining the administration of the units.
Status: Assigned to House Administration Committee

HB 16 (Carson) -- Allows the host and promoter of a large event to share the proceeds from alcohol sales.
Status: Assigned to Economic Development, Banking, Insurance and Commerce Committee

For a list of the activity in the General Assembly this week, click here.