The Leg Hall Insider: May 3, 2013

Legislators Honor Fallen Officers

Hundreds of police officers, legislators and residents gathered Wednesday afternoon on Legislative Mall for the annual ceremony remembering officers who have died in the line of duty. House Speaker Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, a retired state trooper, spoke during the ceremony.

From his speech: “You see the worst of humanity most of the time and good people at their worst moments. You constantly have to make decisions that may affect people for years to come and sometimes have to make that split second decision that may result in the loss of life. You wear many hats. At times, you may be a referee, a counselor, an arbiter, a mediator, an enforcer, a defender, a medic or maybe just a soft shoulder for someone to cry on. You have tremendous authority and power and we expect you to use it judiciously all the while dealing with the worst our society can throw at you.  Sometimes you get hurt and sometimes you don’t come home. It could happen to a 25-year veteran or to a rookie on his first day out on patrol. You never know in advance how these things will turn out. That is what you do, that is who you are. You are special.”

From the Desk of the Majority Leader

This week, I had the opportunity to speak at the Walkable Bikeable Delaware Summit about the General Assembly’s involvement in creating a more bike-friendly Delaware. I am very proud to report Delaware is now ranked fifth nationally in the Bicycle Friendly State ranking and first of all states east of the Mississippi River.

I began cycling in 2009 and I am now in my fourth season doing triathlons. I began biking for health reasons. I had injured my knee and on doctor’s orders was barred from running due to the high impact stress to my legs. A friend suggested cycling as a low-impact way to exercise. Cycling builds strength and muscle tone and helps to improve your cardio-vascular fitness. Cycling is also an easy and accessible way to exercise. All you need is a bike and a helmet to get out there.

Due to our efforts here in Delaware, our state has advanced faster than any other in the Bicycle Friendly State ranking. In January 2012, I sponsored legislation with Senator Dave Sokola to provide legal confirmation that cyclists can proceed straight on right-turn-only lanes. This was an important piece of legislation helping to clarify the rules of the road for cyclists in order to help drivers and cyclists to safely share Delaware roads.

The General Assembly also approved significant funding from the state budget for walking and bicycling trails and pathways. In 2012, Governor Markell made improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians a top initiative in his State of the State speech and it is the responsibility of the legislature to approve the budget.

We have also seen the St. Georges Bridge converted from a four-lane bridge to two lanes with bike lanes running in each direction. There is also the 16-mile Chesapeake & Delaware Canal Trail that is under construction that will run from Delaware City to the Maryland state line.

This was a great week for biking in Delaware and I encourage all Delawareans to consider getting out there and going for a bike ride.

-Valerie Longhurst

Large-Capacity Magazine Bill Clears Administration Committee

Legislation restricting the sale and use of large-capacity magazines, many of which are capable of firing dozens of rounds, cleared a House committee this week.

Sponsored by retired New Castle County Police sergeant Rep. Larry Mitchell, House Bill 58 would prohibit the manufacture, sale, purchase, transfer or delivery of magazines capable of firing more than 10 rounds. The bill carries a grandfather clause for those who already legally own large-capacity magazines but limits where a person can possess both the clip and the firearm to private property and shooting ranges. The high-capacity magazines would be prohibited in public places.

Rep. Mitchell, Colin Goddard, and Governor Jack Markell discuss the details of House Bill 58.

Rep. Mitchell pointed to several shootings in recent years in which large-capacity magazines were used in mass shootings throughout the country – Tucson, Ariz. in 2011, Aurora, Colo. in July 2012 and Newtown, Conn. in December. Large-capacity clips, which can carry 30, 60 or even 100 rounds, serve little purpose other than to fire as many bullets as quickly as possible without having to reload as often, said Rep. Mitchell.

In Tucson, the shooter was stopped by ordinary citizens who tackled and disarmed him when he stopped to reload. In Newtown, 11 students were able to escape that horrific shooting when the shooter stopped to reload one of his 30-round clips.

Under HB 58, large-capacity magazines would not include devices permanently altered so they cannot accept more than 10 rounds or “an attached tubular ammunition feeding device designed to accept, and capable of operating only with, .22 caliber rimfire ammunition.”

During testimony in the House Administration Committee, Colin Goddard, a survivor of the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, spoke about his ordeal and urged the panel to release the bill. Goddard, 27, was shot four times and still has three bullets lodged in his body.

Violating the proposed law would be a class A misdemeanor for a first offense and a class G felony for any subsequent offense.

St. Ann’s Fourth Grade Class Visits Leg Hall

Rep. Gerald Brady welcomed the fourth-grade class from St. Ann’s School in Wilmington for its annual visit to Leg Hall. The students visited Rep. Brady’s office where he asked them questions about what they learned.

Legislative Wrap-Up

The following bills were introduced in the House this week:

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

HB 106 (Baumbach) – Amends the code regarding a manufactured housing homeowners association’s right of first offer to purchase their manufactured home community.

HB 107 (Baumbach) – Provides that the buyer of an existing manufactured home shall have the option of assuming the existing lease from the seller of the home or entering into a new lease with the community owner.

The following bills were released from House committees this week:

HB 90 (K. Williams) – Updates the school choice program, which has not received substantive attention since 1998. This bill aims to make it easier for parents to navigate the choice process by standardizing application forms and deadlines across traditional and charter schools.