Delaware Democrats Deliver Real Results in DoverPress Release
Dover, Delaware — The 151st General Assembly has made history in more ways than one. This legislative session began unlike any other, with a virtual swearing-in ceremony of the most diverse freshmen class of lawmakers to date, including the first three openly LGBTQ+ legislators and the first Muslim legislator.
Despite the challenges of conducting business over Zoom, our legislators had an undeniably productive year. Moreover, members of the public were granted access to watch the legislative proceedings for the first time as opposed to just being able to listen to the audio.
Chair Betsy Maron applauds the work of Delaware Democrats in Dover this session: “Thanks to the leadership of our Senate and House Democrats, our lawmakers passed an impressive slate of legislation — including a $1.3B bond bill, the largest in state history. I am proud of Governor Carney and all our Democrats for leading our state out of a pandemic while balancing the policy goals laid out in our Party’s platform.”
COVID-19 relief legislation (such as House Bill 65, which ensured that unemployment claimants will not have to pay state taxes on the benefits they received during the pandemic) was just the tip of the iceberg with regard to our legislators’ accomplishments:
Perhaps the most critical piece of legislation passed this session was Senate Bill 15, sponsored by Sen. Jack Walsh and Rep. Gerald Brady. This bill will raise the minimum wage to $15/hour by 2025. Special interests poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into local Republicans’ campaigns last year in an attempt to protect affluent, well-connected business owners from paying their workers higher wages.
Anyone who works 40 hours a week should not be living in poverty.
In that same vein, Rep. Kim Williams’ House Bill 88 repealed the youth and training wage, a harmful policy put forward by Republican Mike Ramone who believes that workers doing the same job don’t deserve equal pay simply because of their age.
Health Care for Everyone
Lawmakers sought to improve standards for primary care through the passage of Senate Bill 120, sponsored by Sen. Bryan Townsend and Rep. Dave Bentz.
Rep. Bentz and Sen. Sarah McBride sponsored House Bill 160, which enhances access to telehealth services.
Legislators also passed bills to increase access to menstrual products, epinephrine autoinjectors, and insulin for Delawareans who need them.
After the murder of George Floyd, members of the Legislative Black Caucus held a press conference on the steps of Legislative Hall last June and called for swift action on police reform. This year, they made great strides toward making Delaware a more just place by passing Senate Bill 147 and Senate Bill 148, sponsored by Sen. Marie Pinkney and Rep. Sherry Dorsey Walker. These bills create an objective use of force standard for law enforcement officers and implement accountability measures surrounding use of force.
Rep. Dorsey Walker also sponsored House Bill 195, requiring body-worn cameras.
There is still much work to be done — like reforming the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights — but we are incredibly proud of the steps that have been taken to protect Black lives in Delaware this year.
Equity in Education Funding
Education funding is one of the longest standing challenges that our legislators in Dover face. This year, Delaware Democrats like Sen. Laura Sturgeon, Sen. Tizzy Lockman, Rep. Kim Williams, and Rep. Valerie Longhurst and others are responsible for passing a number of bills that address various components of our education funding system:
- Senate Bill 56 codifies the Opportunity Fund, which provides additional funding for low-income students and English language learners
- House Bill 86 provides additional funding for K-3 special education students
- House Bill 100 funds mental health professionals in elementary schools
Our legislators also passed a number of bills that increase accessibility for higher education:
- Senate Bill 12, sponsored by Sen. Nicole Poore, expands the SEED Scholarship for Delaware Technical Community College
- Senate Bill 95, sponsored by Sen. Trey Paradee, expands the Inspire Scholarship for Delaware State University
- House Bill 123, sponsored by Rep. Krista Griffith, provides a tuition waiver for students who lived in foster care
Criminal Justice Reform
Delaware’s legislature has worked tirelessly over the past few years to reform our broken criminal justice system. We know that our legal system still relies on too many outdated policing and correctional practices that uphold mass incarceration and generational involvement with the justice system.
This year, Rep. Nnamdi Chukwuocha and Rep. Franklin Cooke each put forward important juvenile justice bills: House Bill 115, which bans the prosecution of minors except for certain severe offenses, and House Bill 243, which prohibits law enforcement from releasing the mugshot of a minor.
Senate Bill 111 and Senate Bill 112 are part of the Clean Slate agenda, which create an automatic expungement process and expand access to and eligibility for expungements.
Delaware’s waterways and water systems have long been polluted and unsafe for drinking, swimming, and sustaining wildlife. Rep. Longhurst’s House Bill 200, the Clean Water for Delaware Act, will set up a framework to fund long-awaited infrastructure projects that will help to clean and sustain Delaware’s waterways.
Sen. Stephanie Hansen had two major environmental successes: Senate Bill 2, which enables community-based (and therefore, more affordable) solar energy systems, and Senate Bill 33, which modernizes Delaware’s Renewable Portfolio Standard.
Sen. Kyle Evans Gay championed Senate Bill 5, which creates an automatic voter registration system.
The Delaware Democratic Party is disappointed that every House Republican voted against House Bill 75, a constitutional amendment which removes the barriers with absentee voting — even after nearly all of them supported the same exact bill last session.
We look forward to Gov. Carney signing each of these remaining bills in the coming weeks.