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This page offers all of Delaware Public Media's ongoing coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak and how it is affecting the First State. Check here regularly for the latest new and information.

Delaware lawmakers preparing to resume session

Tom Byrne
Delaware Public Media

The Delaware General Assembly plans to return to work in a few weeks.


House Speaker Pete Schwarzkopf (D-Rehoboth Beach) and State Senate President Pro Temp David McBride (D-Hawk's Nest) announced Thursday it will being conducting business virtually later this month.


They’ll meet via Zoom meetings.  The public and media will be able to watch through multiple platforms, including YouTube and Facebook.


The General Assembly postponed session on March 18th in response to the coronoavirus pandemic and Gov. Carney’s stay at home order. Legislative Hall is often crowded when lawmakers are in session, with as many as 1,700 people go there on the final night of session.

Schwarzkopf said a 2015 fire at Legislative Hall prompted a change to the State Constitution in 2018 allowing lawmakers to meet off site. That eliminated legal hurdles to holding virtual sessions. 

“We put something in place that allowed us to move off site in times of war, in times of destruction of the building for whatever reason.  But, we also put disease in there. So, this coronavirus fits right into that,” Schwarzkopf said.


McBride says lawmakers will get training prior to reconvening, and the state will make sure they have adequate technical capacity.

“They had to provide their internet provider and their speed and so forth," saod McBride. "We want to make sure that all the legislators obviously have the technical capabilities to be able to participate in the virtual session.   


McBride assured that the General Assembly can safely meet through Zoom, despite incidents of hackers hijacking Zoom meetings with obscenities, racist symbols and pornography.  

Lawmakers and staff are required to use state-issued computers.  The Delaware Department of Technology and Information (DTI) will serve as administrator and address any technical issues during the sessions. 

Legislators and staff won't be able to access Legislative Hall with their ID cards. They must call ahead and be cleared.

Schwarzkopf says lawmakers primary focus will be delivering a budget, which lawmakers are constitutionally required to pass by June 30th. 


We’re going to concentrate on the money bills and that type of thing," said Schwartzkopf.  "We need to be able to get through the budget. The budget is our number one concern.  It’s our constitutional concern.  We’re definitely going to make sure we get that done."


Schwarzkopf stressed the need to set aside political differences in order to make the situation work.

“All of us are trying to do this together.  There is more cooperation right now amongst all four caucuses than there has ever been in that building.  We all are looking at the same common goal right now," Schwarzkopf said.  "We want to keep it centered on that goal and that is to get our financial things in order.  And anything else we can accomplish, that’s fine. But we’re going to do it together."

The Joint Finance Committee is scheduled to return during the first week of June. 

It will hold meetings in the House Chamber.  Schwarzkopf noted that safety precautions, such as social distancing will be taken during the Committee’s meetings.  All twelve committee members' temperatures will be taken at the front entrance of Legislative Hall.  They will also be required to wear masks and gloves in the building.

The State Senate will also initially handle some appointments put in limbo by the pandemic.  Leadership says some other necessary legislation, such updates to town charters, could be handled by consent agenda.  


Both chambers must pass a concurrent resolution before starting to operate virtually.  The House will vote on that May 26th.  The Senate will follow on May 27th