The Leg Hall Insider: June 14, 2013

Twice as Nice

Lawmakers representing Appoquinimink School District welcomed to Legislative Hall this week Middletown High School’s football team, which pulled off the rare feat of repeating as Division I champs last fall. Rep. Rebecca Walker (front left), Rep. Quinn Johnson (front right) and Sen. Bethany Hall-Long (second row, far right) congratulated the players and Coach Mark DelPercio, while Reps. Johnson and Walker presented the Cavaliers with a House tribute honoring them.

Charter School Law Update Passes House

Legislation aimed at improving the law governing Delaware charter schools cleared the House Tuesday, representing the first major overhaul to the charter school system since its creation 18 years ago.

Rep. Earl Jaques, the lead sponsor of House Bill 165, said that updating the state’s charter school law has been something he has been involved in for three years, including drafting a bill last legislative session addressing charters. Rep. Jaques said he is confident HB 165, which incorporates some of those earlier ideas, will provide much-needed improvements to Delaware’s charter school law and he is proud of the collaboration among interested parties.

House Bill 165, which passed the House 31-9, updates the charter school law to better hold charter schools accountable while strengthening the state’s support for charter schools. The legislation would make it more difficult for low-performing charter schools to exist in Delaware, while providing more flexibility and support to high-performing charter schools, especially those serving the state’s highest-need students. Specifically, the legislation would:

  • Raise the bar for starting charter schools with a pre-screening process, applicant interviews and additional opportunities to use public input regarding the impact of new and expanded charter schools;
  • Increase charter flexibility and support, with 10-year terms for high-performing charters, more timely allocation of funding, clear allowance of conduit financing and equalized minor capital funding;
  • Create a charter school performance fund for high-performing charters, particularly those looking to expand the number of high-need students they serve;
  • Set and enforce consistent expectations for charter schools, with authorizer-charter agreements, required board member training, required provision of lunch to eligible students, clear closure protocols and a revised renewal process aligned to the charter performance frameworks.

HB 165 heads to the Senate for consideration.

Governor Signs Bill Requiring Reporting Lost/Stolen Firearms

 

Governor Jack Markell signed legislation Wednesday sponsored by Sen. Margaret Rose Henry (left) and Reps. Michael Barbieri and Darryl Scott (far right) to require reporting of lost or stolen firearms. Delaware is now the 8th state to require such reporting to police. Law enforcement largely supported Senate Bill 16. Under the new law, gun owners are required to report the loss or theft of their firearm to police within seven days of discovering the weapon is missing. Violators will be subject to a fine of $75-$100 for a first offense and a fine of $100-$250 for a second offense. A third offense is a class G felony.

Lawmakers Call for Undoing of Citizens United Case

A bipartisan coalition of 35 Delaware General Assembly members sent a letter this week asking Delaware’s Congressional Delegation to support a constitutional amendment undoing the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision.

The letter, authored by Rep. Paul Baumbach and Sen. Bryan Townsend, protests the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case. The decision declared that corporations enjoy the First Amendment political rights of the people, toppling dozens of state and federal laws and two decades of judicial precedents allowing the regulation of direct corporate expenditures related to political campaigns.

The two lawmakers said that unlimited contributions have polluted national politics and is trickling into Delaware elections, which could undermine the First State’s long history of local, grassroots campaigns in which candidates meet voters face-to-face and ask for their vote rather than dumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into races.

To date, 14 other states have called for an amendment to overturn Citizens United, as have Washington, D.C. and nearly 500 municipalities including Newark.

Read the full release about the letter here.

Bills Protecting Emergency Responders Clear House

The House passed companion bills sponsored by Rep. Debra Heffernan Tuesday that would protect volunteer emergency responders from employer discrimination or discipline stemming from their volunteer responsibilities.

House Bill 21 would prevent an employer from firing or taking disciplinary action against an employee who misses work due to injury sustained when acting as a volunteer emergency responder. An employer could require a worker who misses work due to that injury to provide proof of the emergency response or injury.

HB 21 also would prohibit an employer from terminating or taking any other disciplinary action against an employee who is a volunteer emergency responder if they are called to serve during a governor-declared state of emergency or president-declared national emergency and are absent from work. An amendment exempts essential state employees, members of the armed forces, members of the National Guard, hospital personnel and public utility workers.

A second measure, House Bill 22, would prohibit employers from refusing to hire, firing or discriminating against volunteer firefighters and ambulance crews with respect to their pay, terms or conditions of employment because of their volunteer service.

Both bills head to the Senate for consideration.

Legislative Wrap-Up

The following bills passed the House of Representatives this week:

House Bill 148 (Paradee) – Adds a Roth IRA option to state-sponsored 403(b) and 457(b) savings plans that currently are offered to eligible teachers and state employees.
Status: Senate Finance Committee

House Bill 160 (Schwartzkopf) – Allows commercial shellfish farmers to lease one- to five-acre tracts of shellfish grounds in Delaware’s Inland Bays. Farmers could lease for 15 years up to five acres in Rehoboth and Indian River bays combined and could lease one to five additional acres in Little Assawoman Bay.
Status: Senate Natural Resources & Environmental Control Committee

The following bills were released from House committees this week:

Senate Bill 97 (Henry, B. Short) – Adds the term “gender identity” to the already-existing list of prohibited practices of discrimination and hate crimes. It would forbid discrimination against a person on the basis of gender identity in housing, employment, public works contracting, public accommodations, and insurance.
Status: On House agenda for Tuesday, June 18

Senate Substitute 1 for Senate Bill 33 (Ennis, Baumbach) – Requires a manufactured home community owner and homeowners to go through mediation if the community owner attempts to raise rental prices more than the average annual Consumer Price Index for all urban consumers (CPI-U) increase for the preceding 36 months.
Status: On House ready list