Bills on Minimum Wage, Guns and Legal Pot Greet General Assembly’s Return

Governor Carney signed HB 23 into law in June, 2019, which added the Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation to a roster of Delaware nonprofits that taxpayers can designate as recipients of their annual state tax refunds.

As state legislators regroup in Dover for the second half of the 150th General Assembly, several high-profile and controversial issues are awaiting their attention.

Some of these contentious proposals include a hike in the minimum wage, legalization of recreational marijuana and several gun control measures. Here’s a quick status update on some of the biggies that are bound to generate significant debate:
Minimum Wage
Senate Bill 105 seeks to make annual hikes to the state’s minimum wage, topping out at $15 per hour on January 1, 2024.  Under the bill, the wage would be automatically raised after that in concert with increases linked to a specific consumer price index. 

Status:  Pending action in the Senate Finance Committee.

NOTE: Delaware just raised its minimum wage to $9.25 on October 1st.


Legalizing Recreational Marijuana
House Bill 110 (the Delaware Marijuana Control Act) seeks to make recreational marijuana legal in The First State.

Status:  Pending action in the House Appropriations Committee.

NOTE: A version of this bill was voted on by the House of Representatives in June 2018, when it received a majority vote of 21 to 15.  It failed to clear the chamber because the bill would have created new fees — an action that requires a three-fifths super-majority vote (25 votes in the House) for passage.  The new incarnation of the bill still requires a three-fifths vote.  

Restoration of the Death Penalty
About three-and-a-half years ago, the Delaware Supreme Court struck down Delaware’s capital punishment law because an earlier decision by the U.S. Supreme Court made aspects of the statute unconstitutional.  House Bill 165  (the Extreme Crimes Protection Act) addresses the issues cited by the High Court and would restore capital punishment as an option for Delaware prosecutors.

Status:  Pending action in the House Judiciary Committee.

NOTE: This bill passed the House of Representatives in the last General Assembly, but was stalled in a Senate committee by its chairperson. That lawmaker is not a member of the current 150th General Assembly.


Physician-assisted Suicide
House Bill 140 (The Ron Silverio/Heather Block End of Life Options Law) seeks to create a multi-step process that would allow terminally ill Delawareans, with less than six months to live, to obtain and self-administer a lethal dosage of medication.  The proposal has three sponsors and three co-sponsors.

Status: Pending action in the House Health & Human Development Committee.

Assault Weapons Ban
Senate Substitute 1 for Senate Bill 68 seeks to prohibit the sale of dozens of specific makes and models of semi-automatic rifles, shotguns, and handguns in Delaware.  It would also ban weapons with a combination of specified functional or aesthetic attributes.  Those features include a folding stock; the length of the weapon; a flash suppressor; and certain types of pistol grips.

Status:  Pending action in the Senate Executive Committee.

Banning “Large- Capacity” Firearms’ Magazines
Senate Bill 70 is called the Delaware Large Capacity Magazine Prohibition Act of 2019. 

It seeks to ban the sale and ownership of any firearms’ magazines in Delaware with a capacity of more than 15 rounds of ammunition.  Some common semi-automatic rifles and handguns already owned by Delawareans have standard magazines that exceed the threshold set forth in the bill.  The bill would establish a buy-back program for non-conforming magazines, compensating owners $10 per magazine.

Status:  Pending action in the Senate Executive Committee.

Permit to Purchase Firearms
Under Senate Bill 82 (which replaced Senate Bill 69), Delawareans would need to acquire a “handgun qualified purchaser card” to purchase a handgun, or a ‘firearms qualified purchaser card” to buy rifles or shotguns.  Obtaining the appropriate card would require applicants to complete a firearms training course.  The bill would also create a database of all firearm sales and transfers that would be accessible by law enforcement agencies and the court system. 

Individuals with concealed carry permits would be exempt from the bill’s requirements.

Status:  Pending action in the Senate Executive Committee.

Creation of a Water Project Trust Fund
House Bill 200 seeks to divert a minimum of $25 million annually from revenue generated by four existing taxes for a new Water Project Trust Fund.  Those funds would be spent on programs related to water quality, water supply, drainage, stormwater management, and flood control.  In published reports, Gov. John Carney has expressed reservations about the bill based on its revenue earmarks.  The bill has 33 of the General Assembly’s 62 members listed a sponsors or co-sponsors. 
Status:  Pending action in the House Appropriations Committee.

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