Legislative Update | Delaware First Media
Delaware Public Media

Legislative Update

Daily during Morning Edition & All Things Considered (during General Assembly session)

Delaware Public Media Political Reporters cover the state's General Assembly each and every day lawmakers are in session.  You can hear in-depth reports on what's happening at Legislative Hall during both Morning Edition and All Things Considered. 

Karl Malgiero/Delaware Public Media

DelDOT Secretary Jennifer Cohan told state lawmakers Wednesday that state has spent more than $11.5 million on storm cleanup so far this year.

That number is still far below last year’s $17 million.

Democrats push for solitary confinement changes

Mar 25, 2015
Delaware Public Media

Democratic lawmakers are moving forward with solitary confinement reform legislation amid opposition from state officials.

Rep. James Johnson (D-New Castle) is looking to reduce the amount of time inmates spend in solitary and they way it’s used for punishment.

Johnson wants to reduce maximum sentences from three months to four weeks, as well as drop disciplinary maximums to 15 consecutive days or 20 days out of any 60-day period.

Pro pot advocates becoming more outspoken

Mar 24, 2015
Karl Malgiero/Delaware Public Media

Marijuana advocates are becoming more outspoken as the General Assembly is set to debate Delaware’s pot policy.

Protestors confronted Gov. Jack Markell (D) during a public appearance in Newark Monday, pushing him to embrace legalizing recreational marijuana. Markell has publicly rejected those calls, saying it won’t happen while he’s governor.

New liquor law gives smaller restaurants a boost

Mar 23, 2015

Small restaurants in Delaware can now sit at the same table with their larger counterparts when it comes to liquor sales.

Until now eateries hoping to serve alcohol to their customers had to be able to accommodate a minimum of 35 patrons.

But House Bill 16, signed into law Monday by Gov. Jack Markell (D–Delaware), cuts that minimum number by more than half to 12 patrons, and smaller restaurants are counting on the change to Delaware’s liquor laws to help them compete with bigger competitors.

Library advocates lobby for budget support

Mar 23, 2015
Delaware Public Media

Delaware library officials, patrons and advocates are hosting their annual Delaware Library Legislative Action Day on Tuesday.


Attendees at the Dover Public Library will learn how to advocate for First State libraries and will get tips on how to talk with their legislators about their concerns.

Delaware Public Media

Tax and fee hikes could be part of recommendations to help Delaware diversify its revenue base according to Markell administration officials as a state committee analyzing how to increase Delaware’s revenue begins to wrap up its work.

Delaware Public Media

State employee health benefits won’t see an increase in cost for the time being under an agreement reached between state lawmakers and the Markell Administration.

Instead, the State Employee Benefits Committee will vote in premium increases after an open enrollment period in May, though they will be lower than originally proposed.

Delaware Public Media

Those with disabilities in Delaware could save for their future without losing federal benefits under a new bill in Delaware.

Legislation would create a tax-exempt savings account under the federal ABLE Act that Congress passed last year.

Delaware Public Media

Gov. Jack Markell is ordering a moratorium on all new charter school applications for the 2016-17 school year.

Markell made the announcement at Thursday’s State Board of Education Meeting alongside calling for a review of all school programs and assess demand for different subjects.

Both initiatives came from a preliminary report from the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee, which Markell says need to be applied statewide.

Delaware Public Media

Anti death penalty advocates kicked off their latest repeal campaign in earnest at Legislative Hall Wednesday.

About 30 people showed up to a press conference held in the Senate chamber to officially announce the bill, which would repeal Delaware’s death penalty, but not retroactively to those already on death row.

Tom Byrne/Delaware Public Media

The overhaul of Delaware’s Supreme Court is nearly complete as senators unanimously confirmed Collins “CJ” Seitz to sit on the state’s highest judicial body.

UD, DSU transparency bills return

Mar 20, 2015

Open government advocates are renewing their fight to make Delaware’s universities more transparent.

Rep. John Kowalko (D-Newark South) introduced legislation that would require the University of Delaware and Delaware State University to fully comply with the state’s Freedom of Information Act – including their Board of Trustees.

Delaware Public Media

Despite the sunny sky and warm spring temperatures in Dover, it was a gloomy start for the General Assembly reconvening after a month of early budget hearings.

The Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council or DEFAC released its latest revenue projections Monday, reporting a $45 million dollar downtick that took lawmakers by surprise.

Karl Malgiero/Delaware Public Media

Delaware’s minimum wage could be among the highest in the nation under a new bill set to be introduced in the state Senate.

Sen. Robert Marshall’s (D-Wilmington West) proposal would hike the state’s minimum wage to $10.25 per hour by 2019 and tie the figure to inflation from 2019 on.

An effort to ban electronic cigarettes or e-cigs from indoor public places is back before lawmakers this year.
Rep. Debra Heffernan (D-Bellefonte, Claymont, Edgemoor), an environmental toxicologist, is offering the same legislation she pushed a year ago, saying that cancer-causing elements are emitted in vapor expelled by the user.

Delaware Public Media

Balancing the First State’s budget just got a bit more difficult for lawmakers.

The latest revenue estimate from Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council or DEFAC cut $45 million from the state’s bottom line as the General Assembly works to build the state’s Fiscal year 2016 spending plan.  

A $25 million drop in abandoned property collections in the current fiscal year was the biggest budgetary dent in DEFAC’s first forecast since December.

Anne Hoffman/Delaware Public Media

Attorney General Matt Denn is asking lawmakers to change Delaware’s Violent Felony Law.

If approved, legislation Denn is backing would strike drug possession without intent to sell from the state violent felony list. The Attorney General says simply possessing a small amount of drugs is not, in itself, a violent crime. Beyond that, it’s expensive.

Lawmakers take issue with concrete crushing permit

Mar 17, 2015
Delaware Public Media

Two New Castle County lawmakers are calling on DNREC to block a permit application for a concrete crushing operation just south of Wilmington.

Senate Majority Leader David McBride and Rep. James Johnson told state officials to reject a permit application from Diamond Materials LLC for a roving cement crusher at 200 Marsh Lane.

Delaware Public Media

Public opinion in the First State is on the side of those wanting to fully legalize marijuana in Delaware, but the state’s top elected official hasn’t embraced the policy. Delaware Public Media political reporter James Dawson explains why full legalization remains unlikely any time soon.

Delaware Public Media

The Joint Sunset Committee is considering requiring state officials to be more open about how they invest money in economic development projects.

Two lawmakers on the committee, Sens. Bryan Townsend (D-Newark) and Dave Sokola (D-Newark) especially urged more transparency of the agency including the use of the strategic fund, which gives millions in incentives to businesses locating or expanding in Delaware.

Tom Byrne/Delaware Public Media

Supporters of repealing the death penalty in the First State say they are pleased to see a bill addressing the issue being reintroduced to the General Assembly, even if the chances of it passing are not good.

A similar bill was narrowly passed by the state Senate last session, but was tabled in the House Judiciary Committee.

Ti Hall, campaign manager for the Delaware Repeal Project, says the November elections did little to improve the chances of death penalty repeal passing the House.

Delaware Public Media

State employees could see their health insurance costs rise under a plan from the Markell Administration.

Gov. Jack Markell (D-Delaware) set aside $26.1 million in his proposed fiscal year 2016 budget to help make the Group Health Fund solvent. But that move, coupled with increases in premiums by between two and eight dollars a month, still leaves about a $60 million deficit.

Delaware Public Media

Rep. Earl Jaques (D-Glasgow), the new head of the House Education Committee, continues to make waves, calling for a new, state-of-the-art public high school in Wilmington.

Jaques asked lawmakers on the Joint Bond Bill Committee to set aside an unknown amount of money for the proposal this past week.

Strine, Markell clash over budget priorities

Mar 7, 2015

Delaware’s top judge says he’s “disappointed” with Gov. Jack Markell’s (D) proposed operating and capital budgets.

Chief Justice Leo Strine Jr. recently presented a larger spending plan before the Joint Finance and Bond Bill committees, saying that Markell “did not account for the critical needs of the judiciary.”

'Opt-out' efforts may come to a head in March

Mar 3, 2015
Delaware Public Media

The movement to allow kids and families to opt-out of state standardized testing could spark a full review of how Delaware tests its students.

Rep. Earl Jaques (D-Glasgow), head of the House Education Committee, says he’s talking with the Markell Administration to comprehensively review all state testing, which he says makes up about 70 percent of all testing.

It’s in response to a bill supporting the “opt-out” initiative that takes direct aim at the state’s new Smarter Balanced annual assessment.

Delaware Public Media

Rep. Earl Jaques (D-Glasgow), the new head of the House Education Committee, continues to make waves, calling for a new, state-of-the-art public high school in Wilmington.

Jaques asked lawmakers on the Joint Bond Bill Committee to set aside an unknown amount of money for the proposal Monday.

“If you’re going to have neighborhood schools, you need to have complete neighborhood schools so that you don’t just have it partially like we have today,” he said.