Imagine if there was a company that once a year required its employees to work for 16 to 20 hours straight. Given the operating hours of the company and human nature, this schedule effectively keeps many of the employees awake for 24+ hours. After the day is done, the drive home for the exhausted employees can easily be an hour or more.
Imagine further this company didn’t operate in the shadows, but fully and proudly made its schedule public for all to see. In fact, some members of the public voluntarily watch the operations and activities of the company, many depriving themselves of sleep beyond what is acceptable and safe.
Finally, imagine that this organization did their most important work during this sleep-deprived 20-hour shift and that their work affected the lives of all Delawareans.
Who would normally step in to shut down such a blatantly rogue organization, requiring them to operate safely and follow laws that apply to all others, and putting an end to what almost anyone would consider unsafe employment practices?
Well, normally the government would step in, with elected officials leading the way, to shut down and force reform on such an organization. Calls for “understanding” that it only happens once a year would be ignored and fines and other legal actions would be threatened or enforced with great fanfare.
The “blatantly rogue organization” described above is actually the State of Delaware and the employment practice that is summarized is what occurs every year on the legislative session’s last day of work on June 30/July 1.
On July 1, 2018, the Delaware State Senate adjourned at approximately 8:35 am, after beginning our official day at 6:00 pm the day before. The House of Representative adjourned at 8:24 am, after starting at 2 pm the day before. Of course, the day’s work started much earlier for everyone. I drove home at 9:00 am on July 1 after being awake since 6:00 am on June 30. Rest assured that there were dozens and dozens of legislators, legislative hall employees and members of the public who had a similar experience.
The “why” of this happening this year is beside the point. It is an annual event with most years not stretching quite this long, but with each year having its own “why” it happened. The General Assembly permits it to occur because it has ‘always” been done this way. It is a false and moving deadline that counts on exhaustion and frustration to carry the day.
It is unsafe. It is unnecessary. It often results in bad public policy being made when legislators consider bills that most of them have not seen before, often with rules suspended and no public committee meetings. It is something that Delaware would not permit any company or organization to do. It should come to an end. If not to stop bad policy, then it should end so as to possibly save someone’s life or protect them from serious injury.
I plan to propose legislation next year to change the Constitutional provision that enables this ridiculous practice.