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Lawmakers return with resolution addressing Auditor McGuiness legal quandary

Roman Battaglia
Delaware Public Media

Delaware’s state representatives met for the first time this year and took on some big issues.

One of the first things on this session’s “to-do” list was wrapping up a disagreement between the House and Senate over how to proceed with State Auditor Kathy McGuiness, who faces multiple criminal charges and has refused to step down.

Lawmakers spent the past few months consulting with former Delaware Supreme Court Justice Randy Holland on how they can invoke an old article in the state constitution, allowing them to ask the Governor to remove a public official from office.

State Rep. Sean Lynn (D-Dover) says lawmakers were right to go with their instinct.

“After meetings with Justice Holland; House and Senate Leadership and judiciary committee chairs and vice chairs determined that asking the Supreme Court for an opinion regarding article 3, section 13 and article 6, section one of the Delaware Constitution was the best course of action,” Lynn says.

House Lawmakers approved the original Senate resolution asking the State Supreme Court to weigh in on how to invoke this article to avoid any legal issues.

And both Judiciary committees will continue to meet and consult with Holland on their path forward while awaiting a response from the state’s highest court.

And State Representatives approved some changes to Delaware’s liquor laws.

House lawmakers approved Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf’s (D-Rehoboth Beach) bill, which permanently allows restaurants and bars to serve alcoholic drinks with take-out and drive-thru service.

“It was the one thing that they all tell me helped keep most of them afloat — was the fact that we allowed them to have extended seating and had take-out alcohol with their take-out food,” says Schwartzkopf.

Now, almost two years into this pandemic, this policy has become extremely popular among residents and visitors. Schwarzkopf says nearly 80-90 percent of Delawareans he’s spoken with like this option for restaurants.

The bill saw a couple changes since it was released from committee earlier this week — including clarifying that take-out drinks need to be in a closed container, not one with a straw hole, and the limits on the quantity of alcohol sold per customer was reduced.

The bill saw near unanimous support in the House, with only State Rep. Paul Baumbach (D-Newark) dissenting. Baumbach previously expressed concern about permanently enacting these changes, and says lawmakers should consider extending the life of these policies for another year.

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.