The Leg Hall Insider: June 21, 2013

A Manufactured Compromise

Manufactured housing residents were all smiles Thursday after the House unanimously passed SS 1 for SB 33, which requires homeowners and community owners go through mediation if the community owner attempts to raise rental prices more than the average annual CPI-U increase for the preceding 36 months.

 The bill, sponsored by Rep. Paul Baumbach, passed unanimously after Rep. Bryon Short added a friendly amendment removing the requirement that the increase in costs of operating, maintaining, or improving the manufactured home community must be greater than CPI-U before a rent increase can occur. A previous version of this rent justification legislation stalled in the House last year.

 SS 1 for SB 33 goes back to the Senate for final consideration.

Budget Introduced Early for Public View

Joint Finance Committee co-chair Rep. Melanie George Smith introduced the proposed fiscal 2014 operating budget on Tuesday, the fourth consecutive year that the spending plan has been introduced at least a week before the end of session, providing the public with more than a week to review the document.

For several years, the state’s budget was introduced a day or hours before it is voted upon in the waning days of the legislative session, giving the public little time to review the spending plan. The push for increased transparency by introducing the budget earlier began three years ago, when the fiscal 2011 budget was available for public review a full week before it came to the floor for a vote.

The proposed $3.71 billion budget, House Bill 200, is a 3.6-percent increase from last year’s spending plan. A significant chunk of the $130 million increase comes from increased costs to items the state is required to fund, such as Medicaid ($35.8 million), employee retirement/health ($15.4 million) and teacher unit counts ($8.7 million). The 300-page budget is the result of months of public hearings and open discussions by the Joint Finance Committee, a bipartisan committee of six senators and six representatives.

Gender Identity Bill Passed, Signed

Sarah McBride, a transgender Delawarean, speaks about the impact that Senate Bill 97, which was signed into law this week, will have on her life. Sponsored by Sen. Margaret Rose Henry and Rep. Bryon Short, SB 97 prohibits discrimination based on gender identity. It adds the term “gender identity” to the already-existing list of prohibited practices of discrimination and hate crimes. It forbids discrimination in the areas of housing, employment, public works contracting, public accommodations and insurance.

Rep. Short told the dozens of lawmakers and advocates who gathered for Wednesday’s signing that he was deeply honored to shepherd the bill through the House and work with the transgender community.

Infrastructure Projects Could Get Boost

With options recently being discussed to raise additional funds for much-needed infrastructure improvements, Rep. Dennis E. Williams introduced legislation this week that would allow the First State to take advantage of historically low interest rates and modernize Delaware’s bond borrowing limit calculation for general obligation bonds.

Rep. Williams’ House Bill 195 would allow Delaware to borrow additional funds for capital infrastructure via a graduated schedule based on municipal bond interest rates. Currently, the state is limited to borrowing up to 5 percent of the state’s general fund revenue, a limit that has been in place since 1991, when interest rates were much higher. With current interest rates, Rep. Williams said this change would allow the state to access up to an additional $150 million for infrastructure projects.

The increased funds for infrastructure could create thousands of new construction jobs while repairing roads and bridges throughout the state.

Read more about the proposal here.

Bennett Bill Protects Children’s Credit

Gov. Jack Markell signed Rep. Andria Bennett’s first bill into law this week. House Bill 64 enables parents and guardians to freeze their children’s credit until they are 16 years old. This will 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.

Legislative Wrap-Up

The following legislation passed the Senate this week:

House Bill 175 (B. Short) Places tighter controls on workers compensation medical costs,  including a two-year inflation freeze on fee schedule for medical treatment of workers compensation recipients, a permanent reduction in the inflation rate allowed for hospital treatment of workers compensation recipients, and reductions in allowed reimbursements in a variety of medical categories.
Status: House, Senate passed; To governor

The following legislation passed the House this week:

House Bill 163 (Bennett) Requires the Kids Department to create and maintain a developmentally appropriate, comprehensive program that fully integrates independent living services from ages 14 to 21 and which will assist youth with their successful transition into adulthood.
Status: House passed

House Bill 73 (Mitchell) Includes juvenile adjudications for violent felonies in triggering minimum prison sentences for convicted felons – those who, because of their felony convictions, are prohibited from possessing a gun – who are subsequently found with a gun.
Status: In Senate Judiciary Committee 

The following legislation was released from committee this week:

HB 152 (Bolden) Sets out a process by which a person may bring a complaint before the Commissioner of Elections if that person believes a candidate is running in violation of the residency requirements for a particular office.
Status: Out of committee, on House agenda for Tuesday, June 25

HB 159 (Jaques) Prohibits a person from running as a candidate for more than one state, county or municipal office in the same election.
Status: Out of committee, on House agenda for Tuesday, June 25