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Politics & Government

Legislative Update - Jan. 21, 2016

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Heroin and opioid addiction continues to be a focus of state lawmakers this session.

Last year, they set aside $4.5 million to expand addiction treatment programs and increase bed space for in-patient treatment facilities.

Now they’re hoping two new bills will help better target what strategies might be the best ways to help those with addiction problems and prosecute drug dealers.

Attorney General Matt Denn (D-Delaware) supports creating a new state commission that would examine every single overdose death in Delaware to try and find similarities among them.

“To a large degree, we’re working from theories and assumptions when it comes to these overdose deaths rather than hard facts," said Denn. "Sen. Hall-Long and Rep. Dukes and the other legislators who are here today, their creation of a drug overdose fatality review commission is going to provide us – if passed – with some of the answers as to why some of these deaths are occurring.”

Delaware already has similar commissions to investigate child deaths or those resulting from domestic violence.

Heroin and opioid addiction has that’s gotten a lot of attention here, since about 15 people die from an overdose in Delaware every month.

A Senate committee released the bill and it’s waiting a full debate in the upper chamber.

The second bill would hold dealers accountable for selling drugs that their customers directly die from.

This would make it a hefty felony – a minimum of two and up to 25 years in prison if they’re convicted.

Denn candidly admitted that these cases would be hard to prosecute, but he says they have to try.

“As far as I know, this offense of knowingly committing an illegal act that results in somebody’s death, this is the only instance where it doesn’t result in a minimum mandatory jail sentence,” said Denn.

Cheryl Doucette, the aunt of Brock Cerklefskie who recently died from an overdose and who the law would be named after if passed, says it’s a way to keep momentum moving forward.

“Really, we know this is not going to solve the whole problem. We’re hoping this is a first step. We’re hoping this is the first of many bills and new legislation to come as we continue in this fight,” said Doucette.

Yesterday was also the deadline for state and local candidates to file their end of the year fundraising reports.

Republican state senator and gubernatorial candidate Colin Bonini (R-Dover South) raised just under $63,000  in 2015, with 25 thousand dollars of that a loan that he gave himself.

His potential Democratic opponent Congressman John Carney (D-Delaware) hasn’t filed yet, but he reportedly raised 200 thousand dollars during a single October fundraiser.

Numbers for former state trooper Lacey Lafferty, who Bonini will face in a September primary, are also still not in.

Despite the slow start, Bonini says he’ll make it a competitive race.

“Is John most likely to continue to have more money than I have? Absolutely," said Bonini. "But I tell you, the lesson I learned in politics is it’s not about who has more, it’s about whether you enough and I’m confident that we are going to have enough to mount an effective campaign and I really believe that.”

He’s aiming to raise $250,000 over the next few months and half a million dollars for the general election.

Candidates vying to replace Carney in the U.S House will file their 2015 annual reports next week.

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