Delaware senator wants to stop the annual all-nighters

State lawmakers typically work into the early hours of July 1 as seen in these photos from 2015. State Sen. Greg Lavelle wants that practice to come to an end. (Paul Parmelee/WHYY)

State lawmakers typically work into the early hours of July 1 as seen in these photos from 2015. State Sen. Greg Lavelle wants that practice to come to an end. (Paul Parmelee/WHYY)

A Delaware senator wants to end the all-nighters that take place once a year at Legislative Hall.

Once a year, while Delaware residents are fast asleep, legislators are awake at 4 a.m voting on bills for the Governor to sign into law.

Delaware’s constitution requires the General Assembly pass a budget by July 1. On June 30, legislators start their day in Dover’s Legislative Hall at 6 p.m. and vote on a budget and any other bills waiting on the agenda or were introduced last minute.

State senators and representatives don’t stop until they’ve finished every last bill, and usually leave the building around 5 a.m.

State Sen. Greg Lavelle, R-Sharpley, is calling on his colleagues to end the tiring all-nighters.

“The things we have to do is pass a budget, otherwise we violate the constitution,” he said. “But these bills and issues that either sit on the agenda for months at a time or get introduced at the last minute, that’s not done by accident—that’s done to avoid public scrutiny, and that needs to end.”

Lavelle said controversial bills that deserve a fair debate are voted on without public hearing or meaningful vetting due to time constraints.

He said he’s also concerned about his colleagues’ ability to make decisions at such a late hour, and worries about them driving home on no sleep.

Legislators should be able to call themselves back into session after midnight to preserve separation of power, Lavelle said, but there’s nothing in the constitution that states they need to stay until the wee hours of the morning.

“That’s just silly,” he said.

Lavelle said in order to prevent politicians and lobbyists from taking advantage of the system the heads of the House and Senate should put into practice that bills that aren’t introduced before a particular date will not be heard on the floor. He said there could be some exceptions for crisis situations or issues that need to resolve instantly.

“It’s just institutional laziness—‘I can do it because I can get away with it.’”

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