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8 pieces of legislation are signed to boost protections for vulnerable communities in the state

Quinn Kirkpatrick
Delaware Public Media

Governor John Carney joined community advocates and state lawmakers to enact the various pieces of legislation looking to protect several underserved and at-risk communities in the state.

State Senator Sarah McBride worked on six of the bills.

“By making sure that underserved communities have the resources they need. To make sure that young people who are aging out of the foster care system have the support that they need,” said McBride. “To guarantee that families of all shapes and sizes are able to take their children out into the public and have safe and accessible opportunities to care for their children in those environments. All of these bills together really help to support and empower Delawareans particularly the most vulnerable and youngest in our society.”

Both House Substitute 1 for House Bill 264 and House Bill 462 create new protections for victims of abuse.

HB 264 focuses on victims of sexual violence, and allows them to apply for a sexual violence protective order if they have a fear that they will be harmed by their perpetrator in the future. And HB 462 creates a framework to better protect the welfare of abused children in the State of Delaware.

Senate Bill 286 works to resolve systemic neighborhood problems by creating New Castle County neighborhood Improvement Districts to allow the county to use their resources to help underserved communities.

Senate Substitute 1 for Senate Bill 240 supports tenants by preventing landlords from knowingly renting units with bed bug infestations.

McBride was the primary sponsor for Senate Substitute 1 for Senate Bill 151, which looks to support teens in long-term foster care that currently face several barriers in driving, including obtaining a driver's license and an auto-insurance policy.

McBride notes the cost of insurance is a major barrier to both the teens and the families and facilities supporting them.

“For those who are entrusted to care and support these young people, the added cost of either adding them onto their auto insurance policy or paying for an auto insurance policy separately for them is a cost that's out of reach for those families or those facilities.”

SB 151 establishes a program within the Office of the Child Advocate that pays the cost of drivers education, getting a license, and motor vehicle insurance. It also prohibits auto insurers from using certain factors in determining a foster child’s automobile insurance rates, and prohibits DMV from charging certain fees to foster children participating in the program.

The remaining bills signed were based on laws enacted in other states, or at the federal level.

Among them was House Bill 419, which bans the use of deceptive interrogation techniques on juveniles. While Delaware has yet to see a wrongful conviction case involving a false confession, the legislation notes such convictions often take decades to be revealed.

Illinois, Utah and Oregon passed similar legislation, and Colorado and California are currently considering similar bills.

House Bill 311 strengthens protections for individuals with disabilities under the Delaware Equal Accommodations Law (DEAL), and further aligns DEAL with federal law. This includes clarifying that Delaware’s public accommodations align with federal public accommodations under the American Disabilities Act and supplementary legislation, and using the same terms and definitions in DEAL as in federal law.

And Senate Bill 322, which ensures equal access to diaper changing tables in restrooms in public buildings, mirrors a federal law requiring baby changing accommodations in all restrooms in public federal buildings.

Quinn Kirkpatrick was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware and a graduated of the University of Delaware. She joined Delaware Public Media in June 2021