Delaware lawmakers worked into the early morning hours to pass legislation before the conclusion of the first half of the 147th General Assembly. Here is a rundown of what they worked on:
Crackdown on Crime Bills
After a shocking defeat on Thursday, the Senate agreed to reconsider a vote on Attorney General Beau Biden’s bail bill.
Sen. Bryan Townsend, D-Newark, introduced SS1 for SB 36 as the first piece of legislation during a special session that began just after midnight.
The law will “modernize bail provisions” by allowing judges to deny bail for up to 120 days for Class A and Class B violent felony offenses.
Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes, one of many senators who voted it down the first time, explained that many senators had a change of heart after the bill was tweaked.
“With the amendment, that gave 120 days as opposed to 90 so that gave all of us a little more comfort in knowing that due process would be given,” explained Lopez.
The House also passed a few bills that were endorsed by Biden, including SB 40, which would impose stricter prison sentences on offenders who use a gun in a crime.
The House also passed SB 119, which adds new language to the state’s prescription drug monitoring program to strengthen the laws on prescription drug abuse.
One of the most anticipated bills of the night was the reconsideration of HB 88, the controversial mental health gun bill. While it was widely speculated that a motion to reconsider the bill would be brought up on the Senate floor, legislators made no mention of it.
Veterans Gaming Bill
After a three-hour caucus break, the House got right down to business, heavily debating SB 112 which allows fraternal and veteran organizations to operate charitable gaming, an allowance set to expire June 30.
The House added an 11th hour amendment to eliminate the language “certain fraternal benefit societies” in the bill before sending it back to the Senate.
The Senate passed the bill as their final piece of legislation of the session.
The House voted unanimously to increase the regulations of “invasive medical procedure facilities” such as abortion clinics. Under SB 140, facilities must be accredited by independent agencies and must obtain accreditation within six months of the law going into effect.
Both the House and Senate passed the grant-in-aid bill without any issues. The $44.7 million measure provides funding for volunteer fire departments across the state, as well as funding for community organizations, veterans organizations and government and senior centers.
Gov. Jack Markell, D-Delaware, signed the state’s three budget bills just after 2 a.m. and highlighted some of this session’s legislation including everything from improving Delaware’s economic development position to passing gun legislation.
“This General Assembly has not been afraid to tackle the tough issues. They’ve been committed to ensuring the safety of all Delawareans; and as Washington gridlocked on the issues of gun safety, and few states made any progress, we did make progress. We removed the enormous loophole around private sales of guns that allowed anyone to buy one without a background check and we gave our law enforcement an important and long sought tool to crack down on straw purchases by requiring the reporting of lost or stolen weapons,” Markell said in his post midnight news conference.
The budget also adds six new state troopers to target violent gangs and drug trafficking.
The governor also said the state is more “welcoming” with the passage of the same-sex marriage law which goes into effect today.
“Starting a couple hours ago, all Delawareans who make lifetime commitments to each other, will now have full marriage rights recognized by our state and soon by the country.”
The second half of the 147th General Assembly begins Jan. 1, 2014.