Delaware won’t be raising its minimum wage to $15 anytime soon, as a measure to do so stalled during the closing days of the legislative session.
Senate Bill 105 did not emerge from committee to be heard on the Senate floor before the Legislature wrapped up their activities on June 30.
The legislation would have bumped the state’s minimum hourly wage from the current $8.75 to $11 on January 1st and by an additional $1 per hour every New Year’s Day afterward through 2024 until it reached $15.
Instead, the minimum wage is currently set to jump to $9.25 in January 2020.
The legislation still has support from Delaware Democrats and remains eligible to be acted on during the second half of the 150th General Assembly next year.
The measure would also build in an automatic mechanism to continue raising the wage annually by the same rate of increase as the Consumer Price Index for urban wage earners and clerical workers (CPI-W).
Thus far only six states (California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Connecticut) have enacted laws to raise their minimum hourly wage to $15.
Separately, on the heels of the plastic ban bag passed earlier in the session, another bill that would prohibit the use of single-use paper bags did not gain approval.
The legislation, HB 130, aimed to move consumers away from single-use paper to reusable bags with the aim of protecting Delaware’s communities and watersheds and food chain while reducing stormwater and trash management costs to taxpayers. The measure would have limited the use of the bags at certain stores based on predetermined criteria.
One environmentally-oriented bill that did gain approval will increase penalties for illegally dumping a “substantial quantity of litter” (more than a standard garbage can) on public or private land.
A person found guilty of dumping under the legislation would be punished with a fine of at least $500 and 8 hours of community service for a first offense, and a minimum fine of $1,000 and at least 16 hours of community service for a second offense within two years. An additional $500 would be tacked on to any penalty for a violation committed within a state park, state forestry area, state wildlife area, federal wildlife refuge, or National Park Service property.
Littering fines considered
A second related bill that gained approval in the House by a 40-0 vote but was not considered in the Senate seeks to double Delaware’s littering fines. Sponsored by State Rep. Mike Smith, R-Pike Creek Valley, House Bill 179 calls for a first offense to be punishable with a fine of at least $100 and up to eight hours of community service. A second offense, committed within two years, would garner a fine of $150 and up to 25 hours of community service.
Rep. Smith said he drafted the legislation after sponsoring a community clean-up event in his district earlier this spring. “This bill will hold individuals to a certain standard if they violate the law,” he said.
The first-term Representative Smith was busy this session. His legislation – House Bill 185 – would make soccer the state sport for one year in Delaware until June 30, 2020. During the floor debate on June 20th, Rep. Smith stressed the pay inequity that exists in women’s soccer and discussed the cutting-edge work that is being done at the University of Delaware on concussion research. The bill was not taken up by the full Senate.
Decriminalization of underage drinking passes
Senate Bill 44 finally passed in the Senate on the final day of the session. This bill would make possession or consumption of alcohol by anyone younger than 21 a civil offense, meaning it would not appear on a criminal record.
The bill actually came before the State Senate twice because the House legislature amended the bill so that only the first and second offenses would be civil. A third offense would then rise to a criminal offense. The amendment also removes driver’s license revocation as a penalty for a violation of either the civil or criminal offense of underage drinking.