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Delaware's legislative session is over for the year, what bills didn't make the final cut?

Delaware Legislative Hall in Dover.
Roman Battaglia
Delaware Public Media
Delaware Legislative Hall in Dover.

Following the end of the legislative session on June 30, a total of 255 bills awaited action from Gov. John Carney — 100 more than last year.

Here's some highlights of the bills that didn't reach the governor's desk this year:

A constitutional amendment banning the death penalty in Delaware

Although legislators successfully removed death penalty language from Delaware code, they did not pass a constitutional amendment effectively banning it.

The Delaware Supreme Court ruled the death penalty unconstitutional in 2016, although capital punishment remained codified in state law until last month.

While legislators garnered enough support to make the technical fix, passing the first leg of a constitutional amendment to permanently ban the death penalty didn’t receive any Republican support in the House largely due to procedural concerns.

During floor debate, State Rep. Sean Lynn (D-Dover) said he repeatedly asked for the bill to be placed on the House agenda, but it wasn’t brought up until the last day of session.

House Republican Leader Mike Ramone (R-Pike Creek South) said although he is against the death penalty, he could not in good conscience vote for the bill because he felt a subject of such importance needs more thorough consideration.

He went onto to describe if the House were to pass it, the bill would likely go to the Senate the same day, which would require a suspension of the rules due to the fact there wouldn't be time for a Senate committee to hear and release the constitutional amendment to the floor for a full vote.

But Lynn refuted this, noting he has been working on this bill for years.

“I’m asking you as a courtesy, as a professional courtesy, to not hold it against me and this bill, which means more to me than really anything, that simply because it’s not— it wasn’t heard in the way that we want it to be heard, that you simply vote against it because of that," Lynn said.

Permanently outlawing the death penalty failed 24-15 in the House, shy of the required two-thirds vote, but capital punishment remains unenforceable in Delaware.

Providing legal protections for providers of gender-affirming care

A bill to provide legal protections for providers of gender-affirming care in Delaware made it out of a House committee in March, but it never received a full vote.

State Rep. DeShanna Neal’s (D-Wilmington) bill would shield gender-affirming care providers from civil actions, similar to protections the state already awards to providers of reproductive care services.

But Neal said due to widespread misinformation, a lot of time was spent explaining the bill to their colleagues.

“By the time we were able to really even come up with something to help people understand what this bill would do, what it wasn’t going to do, and educate people on the fact that gender-affirming care is actually already legal in this state – which a lot of people didn’t know – it was really already late into June," they explained.

Although the bill didn’t make it to the House floor, Neal is confident the bill will return at the start of the next legislative session in January and pass both chambers with ease.

State Rep. Kendra Johnson (D-Bear) sponsored similar legislation providing legal protections for fertility treatment providers, which currently awaits Gov. John Carney’s signature.

Requiring documentation of age validation to enter adult websites

A bill that would require entities that knowingly provide pornography and material harmful to minors on the internet to conduct age verification passed the House in June, despite wavering Democratic support, but it did not receive a committee hearing in the Senate.

State Rep. Michael Smith (R-Newark) explained the bill would create a more robust verification system compared to the popup box asking you to simply check a box if you are over the age of 18.

“What this does is create an age verification process, so through your passport, through your state ID, you would have to upload that and that would then make an entrance point," Smith said.

While the bill largely garnered support, five Democrats voted against it, citing privacy concerns in the event that verification companies sell the sensitive data, as well as potential for extortion, lawsuits and worries of which sites would be included under the bill.

"Legislation such as this can be and has been used to target sites for sex education, for information for woman about terminating pregnancies and especially of concern to me, and especially on today of all days, members of the LGBTQ+ community," State Rep. Eric Morrison (D-Glasgow) said.

The Free Speech Coalition, representing the adult entertainment industry, has been considering contesting a similar law in Virginia, having already opposed similar age verification laws in Louisiana and Utah.

While Delaware did not pass the law, South Dakota, Idaho, Florida, Kentucky, Nebraska, Georgia, Alabama, Kansas, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Indiana all passed similar legislation passed this year.

Allowing multiple mobile sports betting vendors in Delaware

In August, the Delaware Lottery selected Rush Street Interactive (RSI) as the state's sole vendor for online gaming operations and in January launched the BetRivers app for mobile sports betting.

After announcing the contract with RSI, The Internet Sports Lottery Legislative Working Group released recommendations advocating for multiple sports betting vendors, and lawmakers made a formal push to codify this initiative in April.

Delaware Lottery Director Helene Keeley said while she believes in healthy competition, due to the small eligible betting population in Delaware, she remains convinced having one vendor is the most profitable path for the state.

The bill’s sponsor State Rep. Frank Cooke (D-New Castle) disagrees.

“You should have a multiple choice, and I can make a choice where I want to go to do that – not just one where they monopolize everything," he said. "I don't think we should just be stuck on one sports betting company."

Cooke argued several of the surrounding states allow multiple mobile sports betting operators, including Vermont, which he notes has a significantly smaller population than Delaware.

The bill would allow up to six mobile sports betting vendors in the state, which would open up the possibility of allowing big-name sports betting brands like Draft Kings, FanDuel and BetMGM to operate within Delaware.

While the bill was released from the House Administration Committee, it failed to receive a hearing in the House Appropriations Committee.

Modernizing Delaware's probation system

State Sen. Marie Pinkney (D-Bear) introduced four separate versions of a bill aiming to create a more flexible probation system for justice-involved individuals, but the legislation was pulled multiple times from the Senate agenda.

The initial version of the bill would have limited imposing additional prison sentences on individuals who make a technical violation of their probation or parole, meaning other than under special circumstances, they could only be reincarcerated for intentionally avoiding supervision, violating a no-contact order, possessing a firearm or being arrested on a new felony or misdemeanor.

That provision was removed in the final substituted version, focusing instead on updating the Delaware Code to use people-first language to refer to an individual on probation or otherwise involved in the criminal justice system.

It would also clarify the requirement that a court, Board of Parole or probation and parole officer impose the least restrictive special conditions of supervision possible, as well as ensuring that reporting requirements are as minimally-intrusive as possible.

Despite Pinkney's vast amount of changes and compromises from the original bill, the final substituted version never made it to the Senate for a full vote.

Moving the statewide primary to the same date as the presidential primary

State Rep. Stephanie T. Bolden (D-Wilmington) made her ninth attempt to pass legislation looking to move the date of Delaware primary elections for statewide, county and municipal offices — currently held in early September — to the same date of the presidential primary in April.

Bolden said making the statewide primary coincide with the presidential primary will save the state over a million dollars among other benefits.

“It makes it easier for people to vote. It creates less confusion. It increases voter participation. It provides a wider window for those serving in the military and living abroad," Bolden said.

She noted the bill passed unanimously in the House among members present last June, but after receiving three no votes and 18 abstentions in the Senate, the bill was defeated.

This year, the bill passed unanimously in the House with one member not voting, but it failed to receive a committee hearing in the Senate.

Bolden says she will bring the bill back next year and continue to do so until it is passed.

Before residing in Dover, Delaware, Sarah Petrowich moved around the country with her family, spending eight years in Fairbanks, Alaska, 10 years in Carbondale, Illinois and four years in Indianapolis, Indiana. She graduated from the University of Missouri in 2023 with a dual degree in Journalism and Political Science.
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