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Lawmakers seek to extend pandemic-era liquor laws, tighten requirements for candidate filing

Tom Byrne
Delaware Public Media

State lawmakers look to make positive changes discovered during the pandemic permanent.

Delaware’s liquor laws got a little less restrictive at the onset of the pandemic, to allow for greater safety in restaurants.

Lawmakers allowed restaurants to sell alcoholic drinks for take-out and drive-thru services, and also expanded eligibility for outdoor dining.

House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf now wants to permanently enact those changes, noting their popularity among residents and visitors.

But the bill faces opposition from the state’s Alcohol Control Commissioner, Jacqueline Mette.

“We already do have a process in place in code that the General Assembly created and that’s the patio process — that restaurants and others are certainly allowed to go through that process to apply for patio seating for outside seating,” she says.

Metta says that process is also more fleshed out, including a fee and a public comment process.

Schwarzkopf says he plans to introduce another bill that creates a fee for this outdoor dining scenario, emphasizing that a restaurant putting out a couple tables shouldn’t have to pay the same $1000 fee as one seating 30.

And lawmakers are considering adding a proof of residency requirement in future elections.

Currently, Delawareans running for office don’t need to provide proof they live at the address on their filing forms.

State Rep. Kevin Hensley says the Department of Elections can easily implement the requirement.

“When an individual would show up to register — as they do today, make a copy of their driver’s license,” Hensley says. “The clerk would request a copy of one of the documents I just mentioned, make a copy of it along with the driver’s license and file it appropriately.”

Candidates would have to submit either proof of home ownership or rental, alongside a state ID or a utility bill.

Hensley says he designed the bill to be as simple as possible, and is introducing it to create checks in the elections system that ensure candidates represent the people where they live.

In 2020, current Wilmington City Council president Trippi Congo was forced out of his previous 2nd district seat after moving from the district and failing to notify the council.

However, this bill would only affect county and state offices, not municipal ones.

Both bills were released from committee by a unanimous vote.

Roman Battaglia is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.