In response to confusion and conflicting information about allowing pets to accompany their owners to restaurants’ outdoor seating areas, House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf has filed legislation to make clear that pets are permitted.

Surrounded by justice advocates and labor leaders, Governor John Carney signed three bills into law Monday that will break down barriers to employment for formerly incarcerated individuals. Stable employment is a key component to rehabilitation and criminal justice reform, helping to decrease recidivism, improve public safety and reduce the burden on the prison system.

House Bill 74, sponsored by Rep. Sean Lynn, forms the Take Care Delaware program, enabling a police officer or emergency-care provider to inform local schools when a child has been involved in a traumatic event, so the school can address their needs.

This year, the Delaware General Assembly tackled mass incarceration in the First State head-on, passing a series of landmark bills that work to break the cycle of recidivism and change the lives of thousands of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated Delawareans. Part of the most ambitious criminal justice package Delaware has seen in a decade, lawmakers sent 11 bills to Governor John Carney’s desk to become law this legislative session, passing seven on June 30, the last day of the first half of the 150th General Assembly.

Recognizing the importance of forging bonds between all mothers and new babies, lawmakers filed legislation Sunday that would codify women’s services in prison and establishes a prison nursery.

Delaware residents receiving unemployment compensation will see their first increase in the weekly benefits in more than 17 years thanks to legislation Governor John Carney signed into law Sunday. Sponsored by Rep. Ed Osienski, House Bill 198 increases the maximum weekly benefit amount from $330 a week to $400 a week, payable to individuals seeking unemployment compensation benefits from the Delaware Division of Unemployment Insurance. The funds needed to pay this increase will be paid from the Unemployment Trust Fund.

Waitstaff and workers who rely on tips and gratuities could see their first hourly wage increase in more than 35 years under legislation unveiled Thursday. Sponsored by Rep. Kim Williams, House Bill 252 would replace the current floor for tipped employees from $2.23 per hour with a requirement they not be paid less than 65 percent of Delaware’s minimum wage. Under the current $8.75 per hour wage, that would be $5.69. When the minimum wage increases to $9.25 per hour on October 1, the tipped wage minimum wage would increase to $6.01 per hour.

Patient-first legislation requiring medical professionals to obtain informed consent for specific medical procedures has passed the House unanimously. Championed by Rep. Krista Griffith, House Bill 239 would prohibit a pelvic, rectal, or prostate examination by a health care practitioner or professional on an individual who is anesthetized or unconscious unless the patient provides informed consent. The measure also allows an exception if the examination is for diagnostic or treatment purposes, an emergency exists and the examination is necessary, or the examination is ordered by a court.

As Delaware continues to grapple with the magnitude of the opioid epidemic, legislation filed by Rep. Kendra Johnson looks to enhance the oversight of a critical piece of an individual’s recovery: sober living residences.

The House unanimously passed the fiscal 2020 operating budget Thursday, sending the $4.45 billion spending plan to the Senate for consideration. House Bill 225 was introduced on June 11, the earliest an operating budget has been filed in recent memory. The fiscal 2020 budget – a 4.24-percent increase from last year’s budget – fully funds school enrollment growth, cost increases associated with Medicaid growth, debt service, salary step increases for state workers, and other “door-openers.”

Legislation that would break down barriers to employment, reduce the ability to stack charges, help youth rehabilitate and overhaul significant portions of the criminal justice code cleared significant hurdles in the House of Representatives during the past two weeks. Part of an ambitious criminal justice package announced earlier this year, these bills will help incarcerated individuals – adults and youth – move past their criminal record and ensure that our judges have discretion to make the best sentencing decisions for each individual rather than applying a one-size-fits-all standard to all offenders.

Legislation designed to increase the independence, and strengthen and expand the responsibilities of a prison healthcare review committee won unanimous approval in the House on Tuesday. Sponsored by Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, House Bill 173 would place the Adult Correction Healthcare Review Committee within the Criminal Justice Council and add the chairs of the House and Senate Corrections Committees and the Chief of the Bureau of Correctional Healthcare Services as non-voting members of the panel.

DOVER – Legislation filed Monday from Rep. Andria Bennett aims to shine a light on pharmacy benefits managers, increasing oversight and transparency of the vastly unregulated third-party drug administrators.

Legislation sets the framework to lower healthcare costs for consumers who do not have an employer-based insurance plan.

DOVER – Continuing a longstanding effort to make healthcare more affordable, lawmakers introduced legislation this week that would create a reinsurance program to help lower the cost of premiums for Delawareans who do not get insurance through their employers.

Clean water bill would ensure mandatory water testing, support waterway infrastructure, and bolster adequate stormwater management.

In an ongoing effort to increase access to voting, lawmakers unveiled a proposal Wednesday to allow Delaware residents to cast their ballots in elections without having to leave their home. Sponsored by Rep. Gerald Brady, House Bill 175 would allow voters to vote by mail in primary, general or special elections beginning in 2022. This would be in addition to existing in-person and absentee voting options for residents. It would not replace the current voting methods, but supplement them with this option.

In an effort to encourage students to graduate high school, the age at which students must attend school would be increased to 18 under legislation announced Tuesday. Sponsored by Rep. Debra Heffernan, House Bill 170 would raise the age requirement for compulsory school attendance in Delaware from 16 to 18 over a two-year period. 

Senate Bill 34, championed by Sen. Stephanie Hansen and Rep. David Bentz, requires drug makers responsible for the state’s opioid crisis to help pay for additional research and addiction treatment options in Delaware.

Noting that the current prohibition on marijuana consumption has failed to control the use or sale of cannabis, lawmakers introduced a measure Thursday to legalize recreational marijuana for adult users, a move intended to stamp out the black market. House Bill 110, the Delaware Marijuana Control Act, would create a legal framework to regulate the production and sale of marijuana, establish a new industry that could create hundreds of good-paying jobs throughout the state, and provide a thorough, controlled and reasonable process to ensure fair access.

Legislation to limit availability of single-use plastic carryout bags passed the House overwhelming Tuesday. Sponsored by Rep. Gerald Brady, HB 130 expands Delaware’s existing at-store recycling program by largely prohibiting single-use carryout plastic bags at large and chain stores. The House passed the bill 33-7.

Lawmakers introduced a measure Thursday that would allow capable, terminally ill patients to choose to use medication to end their suffering.

Sponsored by Rep. Paul Baumbach, the Delaware End of Life Options Act would create a process and set of procedures for terminally ill adults nearing the end of their lives to request, receive and use medication to end their lives. House Bill 140 includes a physician’s evaluation, confirmation by a second physician, and two waiting periods before medication could be provided.

DOVER – Plastic bags litter communities, clog stormwater systems and swirl in our waterways, causing substantial environmental distress, but legislation from Rep. Gerald Brady would significantly reduce those hazards by limiting the use of plastic bags at Delaware retailers.

DOVER – In an effort to bolster patient safety, reduce staffing burdens and better monitor controlled substance prescriptions, Rep. Debra Heffernan has introduced legislation calling for healthcare professionals to utilize electronic prescriptions.

DOVER – In an effort to bolster patient safety, reduce staffing burdens and better monitor controlled substance prescriptions, Rep. Debra Heffernan has introduced legislation calling for healthcare professionals to utilize electronic prescriptions.

DOVER – As the scourge of human trafficking continues to impact residents throughout Delaware, Rep. Kim Williams and Sen. Nicole Poore have proposed two pieces of legislation that would help victims of human trafficking rebuild their lives after trauma, bolster public awareness and coordination, and clarify the crime of prostitution.

Lawmakers, prosecutors, defense attorneys and criminal justice reform advocates stood together Thursday to propose Delaware’s most comprehensive criminal justice reform effort in decades. The ambitious package of 19 bills aim to rebalance Delaware’s justice system by reducing the state’s high rate of recidivism, removing barriers to opportunity for inmates returning to society, and right-sizing criminal sentencing. 

DOVER – Citing the success of helping Delaware families in difficult situations, Rep. John Kowalko filed legislation this week that would extend a critical state program that provides assistance to homeowners facing foreclosure.

Lawmakers filed a trio of bills Wednesday designed to encourage and increase voter participation in Delaware’s electoral process. Taken together, the three measures would make it easier for eligible residents to register to vote, increase opportunities to cast ballots and eliminate confusion surrounding multiple elections.

Legislation puts the consumer first so they are not burdened by excessive prescription drug costs.

DOVER – Insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers would be prohibited from overcharging for prescription drugs and pocketing the difference under new legislation introduced Friday by Rep. Andria Bennett.

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