It’s been six months since the 147th General Assembly wrapped up the first half of session and now Delaware’s legislators are preparing to head back to the state’s capitol to debate a fresh set of bills.
Many new laws were passed during last year’s lively debate in Legislative Hall from social reform issues to strengthening gun laws.
One of the highlight’s of last year’s legislative session was the passage of the same-sex marriage bill which made Delaware the 11th state in the country to allow same-sex marriage.
During the final debates of the bill, Senator Karen Peterson (D-Stanton) publicly came out and addressed her 24-year relationship with her partner.
“You are who you are and you are who God made you,” said Peterson at the time. “I’m in my 60s now. I’m to a point in my life where, you know, if you like it, fine; if you don’t, that’s fine too. I am who I am.”
Governor Jack Markell, D-Del., signed the bill before a packed crowd on the steps of Legislative Hall immediately following the passage of the bill.
The general assembly also passed a bill to add gender-identity to Delaware’s non-discrimination laws and a bill to help disabled residents under 65 receive supplemental health insurance.
Another topic that topped last year’s session was a package of new gun control measures proposed by Gov. Jack Markell.
In the rollout last year, Markell proposed five new initiatives: universal background checks, reporting lost or stolen weapons, banning large capacity magazines, banning military-style assault weapons and preventing guns on or near school property.
A bill to keep people with mental illness away from guns was also introduced.
The general assembly passed the universal background check bill as well as the reporting lost or stolen weapons bill. The ban on assault weapons was withdrawn and the remaining gun bills could make their way to a vote this session.
As gun control continues to spark debate across the country, Delaware will likely take up some of the gun bills that were not passed last year.
House Bill 88, a bill to strengthen gun laws for those with mental health illness could be one of the first bills to get a fresh vote.
Last week, the mother of a young woman killed in the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting was in Delaware to show her support for the bill, while Mark Barden, the father of Sandy Hook victim Daniel Barden, is expected to meet with Delaware lawmakers in Dover Tuesday.
Other hot topics expected to be debated this year include repealing the death penalty and increasing minimum wage.
The state is also faced with stagnant state revenue projections mixed with the growing cost of health care and education.