Delaware senator vows to end the June 30 all-nighters

State Rep. Dave Wilson takes an understandable snooze about 7 a.m. on July 1 during a recess in this  year's final legislative session. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

State Rep. Dave Wilson takes an understandable snooze about 7 a.m. on July 1 during a recess in this year's final legislative session. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

Every year, Delaware lawmakers debate legislation past their June 30 deadline, well into the next morning.

This year, legislators were in Dover until just after 8 a.m., as Democrats and Republicans quarreled over a minimum wage increase through the night.

Senate Minority Whip Greg Lavelle, R-Sharpley, is promising to stop the “ridiculous” all-nighters by introducing a constitutional amendment next year.

He said legislators are more likely to pass flawed pieces of legislation while sleep-deprived. Last-minute bills often skip over the committee hearing process in order to get a vote before the end of session.

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“We’re making public policy decisions that can impact the state or significant portions of it on little sleep and under frustrated situations at 2, 3, 4, 5, in the morning,” said Lavelle, who has been a vocal opponent to the all-nighters in the past. WHYY interviewed Lavelle after he wrote about the issue in his newsletter sent to constituents on Thursday.

“The bills have not been seen by many of us, often rules are suspended to get around the requirement to have committee hearings and have the public be able to weigh in. So it’s bad public policy making.”

In addition, he said it’s simply not safe.

“People are driving home after being awake 24 or 28 hours, as I was this last time,” Lavelle said. “It’s simply dangerous, and we should stop it before someone gets hurt or killed, and that’s what I propose to do next year.”

The Delaware Constitution allows the General Assembly to call itself back into session if necessary. Lavelle said while it’s reasonable to resume work for a few minutes after midnight, there’s nothing that requires his colleagues to work until 8 a.m.

State Rep. Paul Baumbach questioned Lavelle’s motives in a post on Twiter Friday morning. The Newark Democrat wondered in his statement “in a tough budget year will he support the big head committee making any decisions before June 29th? He didn’t in 2017, and this led to the very late session work.” Baumbach added, “If he is still unwilling, then this current proposal is 100% showboating.”

Lavelle said attorneys are currently discussing the best way to make the constitutional amendment. He said legislators could start their day earlier — or just stop procrastinating. “We pass so many pieces of legislation in the last three or four days. Why are we waiting so long?” he said.

“Most of these bills fly through with no controversy. I can understand—I don’t agree with it—but I understand holding controversial issues to the end. But it becomes a volume issue, so I think there’s ways to figure that out.”

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