The Leg Hall Insider: May 10, 2013

Delaware Says 'I Do'


Governor Markell holds up the signed bill for legislators and supporters on the steps inside Legislative Hall.

Joined by legislators and community advocates on the steps inside Legislative Hall, Governor Jack Markell signed legislation Tuesday to allow same-sex couples to marry, making Delaware the 11th state in the country to legalize same-sex marriage. Receiving bipartisan support, House Bill 75 passed in the Senate that day by a vote of 12-9. It had previously passed the House of Representatives last month by a vote of 23-18.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Melanie George Smith and Sen. David Sokola along with Speaker of the House Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, House Majority Leader Rep. Valerie Longhurst and Senate President Pro Tem Patricia Blevins, expands upon landmark legislation signed into law two years ago, in which Delaware became one of only a handful of states to allow same-sex civil unions and fully recognize same-sex relationships.

The marriage equality law establishes procedures for the conversion of existing civil unions to marriages and explicitly protects religious freedom. No clergyperson or minister of any religious denomination will be required to perform any marriage, including a same-sex marriage, that does not conform to his or her religious beliefs.

Bills Addressing Gun Violence Issue Clear Committees

Three bills aimed at reducing gun violence by increasing criminal penalties for unlawfully carrying a concealed firearm, keeping guns out of the hands of those who have been found to be a danger to themselves or others and reducing “straw purchases” of firearms cleared their respective House committees Wednesday afternoon.

The House Administration Committee released Senate Bill 16, which would require owners of lost or stolen handguns to report such loss or theft within one week after discovering the loss or theft. Under the bill, a first or second offense would carry a civil penalty ranging from $75 to $100 for the first offense and $100 to $250 for the second violation. A third offense would be a class G felony.

Sponsored by Rep. Michael Barbieri, the bill targets straw purchases of firearms, in which a person buys a gun and then transfers it to a person prohibited from owning one. SB 16 cleared the Senate last week.

House Bill 88, also sponsored by Rep. Barbieri, cleared the House Health & Human Development Committee. Drafted by the Attorney General’s Office, that bill would help keep guns out of the hands of those determined to be a danger to themselves or others.

The House Judiciary Committee released House Bill 72, sponsored by Rep. Larry Mitchell, which would impose a one-year mandatory prison sentence for those convicted of unlawfully carrying a concealed firearm. Currently there is no minimum mandatory sentence for this crime.

Rep. Mitchell, a retired New Castle County police officer, said that his experience of arresting the same repeat offenders for gun violations sparked his support for this measure, which is part of a multi-faceted approach to curbing gun violence and making our communities safer.

The bills now head to the House for a full vote.

Governor Signs Background Check Bill

Surrounded by law enforcement, advocates for gun safety and lawmakers from both parties, Governor Jack Markell signed House Bill 35 Wednesday, the most significant piece of gun safety legislation in Delaware in decades.


Rep. John Viola, Sen. Harris McDowell, Nelba Marquez-Greene, Rep. Valerie Longhurst, Nicole Hockley, Sen. David Sokola, Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, Jackie Barden, Sen. Nicole Poore, Mark Barden and Rep. Deborah Hudson look on as Governor Markell signs HB 35.

House Majority Leader Rep. Valerie Longhurst, who was the lead sponsor of the background checks bill, thanked the families from Newtown for attending and turning their personal tragedies into a force for positive change.

Persons who violate HB 35 will be guilty of a class A misdemeanor for a first offense. Any subsequent offense is a class G felony.


Rep. Valerie Longhurst hugs Nicole Hockley, mother of 6-year-old Dylan, who was murdered at Sandy Hook.

House Majority Leader Rep. Valerie Longhurst, who was the lead sponsor of the background checks bill, thanked the families from Newtown for attending and turning their personal tragedies into a force for positive change.

Persons who violate HB 35 will be guilty of a class A misdemeanor for a first offense. Any subsequent offense is a class G felony.

House Passes School Choice Update

Legislation providing the first substantive update to Delaware’s school choice program in 15 years unanimously passed the House of Representatives Tuesday. The bill, introduced by Rep. Kimberly Williams, would standardize the process and help parents better understand and navigate the system.

The school choice program enables students to attend a school different from their feeder school, whether it is a charter school, a vocational technical school, a different school in the same district or a school in a different district. Currently, Delaware school districts set their own school choice parameters with different criteria and forms for interested students and parents.

A former Red Clay Consolidated School District board member, Rep. Williams said it is important that school districts provide school choice for students, but she knows the process of applying to attend a different school is confusing and challenging.

Currently, one out of four Delaware students utilizes some form of school choice. Approximately 10 percent choose schools in their current district, eight percent choose charter schools, five percent choose vocational technical schools and four percent choose schools in different districts.

Legislative Wrap-Up

The following bills were introduced in the House this week:

HB 118 (Bolden) - Permits alcoholic beverage license holders to hold up to three retail licenses from the current two that was established as of April 1992.
Status: House Economic Development, Banking, Insurance & Commerce Committee

HB 121 (Baumbach) – Clarifies landlords’ obligations to respect the privacy of tenants and not enter a lot without the tenant’s or an adult resident’s permission.
Status: House Manufactured Housing Committee

The following bills were released from House committees this week:

HB 105 (Viola) – Provides for election day registration for presidential primary, primary, special, and general elections. Moreover, same day registration at polling places will be permitted with submission of valid government issued identification or other generally accepted proof of identification.

The following bills passed the House this week:

HB 13 (Kowalko) – Prohibits a former member of the General Assembly from acting as a lobbyist for a period of one year after such person’s term of office ends. Uncompensated lobbying activities are exempt from the one-year waiting period.