Delaware’s finance bills have successfully passed through both the Senate and House of Representatives and on Tuesday were awaiting Gov. John Carney’s signature.
But there is more work to be done, according to Speaker of the House Peter Schwartzkopf (D-Rehoboth Beach).
The speaker announced an additional House session to occur Tuesday, June 30, beginning at 11:45 p.m.
Legislators are asked to be online by 11:15 p.m. to begin the vetting process, which takes place before every virtual meeting. According to the General Assembly website, the Senate will be meeting Tuesday night, beginning at 10:30 p.m.
Also, Sen. Harris McDowell, D-Wilmington and chair of the Senate Energy Committee, emailed colleagues Monday, asking them to support his SB 250 Tuesday.
That controversial bill would extend the Renewable Energy Portfolio through 2035 and implement the “Community Sustainable Energy Authorities Act” authorizing “incorporated municipalities, towns, and counties and the Delaware Sustainable Energy Utility to create authorities to develop, promote, and operate community sustainable energy projects.”
McDowell, who is retiring this year, has said the move would allow more solar energy to be developed with the consumer as the producer and also give local governments more control. Opponents say it would ultimately increase costs for utility services and consumers.
The House session will be live-streamed on Delaware Live.
Traditionally, Delaware’s General Assembly has met in the late hours of June 30 each year to attempt to pass some of the last bills on their docket. That tradition might be even more crucial to legislators this year as the two-year General Assembly cycle ends. A new session will begin in January 2021, but that means bills that do not pass by Tuesday night must be reintroduced in January and begin the approval process from scratch. Nothing rolls over into the next two-year session.
Delaware’s Constitution says that the legislative session ends each calendar year on June 30. But legislators also have the power to assemble that evening and open a special session at 12:01 a.m. July 1 if it is at the mutual call of the presiding officers of both the House and Senate, according to Delaware’s Supreme Court ruling 405 A.2d 694 (Del. 1979).
If they do not open the midnight session to finish business, the governor might have to call legislators back into a special session.
Some legislators want to change the 11th-hour meetings.
“Our last day is structured and delayed so that we have bills remaining to be worked after midnight,” State House Minority Leader Danny Short, R-Seaford. said in a press conference last year while presenting a bill to stop it. “Sometimes we find ourselves dealing with controversial measures deep in the wee hours when most of the public is asleep. That was the case last year when a minimum wage bill was run through the House at 3:40 a.m.”
His bill, HB 136, proposed a constitutional amendment requiring lawmakers to end business on the last legislative day of the session by 7 p.m.
‘This simple change would largely fix this,” he said then.
It was introduced May 2, 2019 and assigned to the Administration Committee in the House, where it has yet to come up for debate in a Democrat-controlled House.
With no such rules in place, the current General Assembly will open their special sessions tonight as they continue working through new laws.
As of 11:40 a.m, the Senate had not posted its agenda for the night.
The Delaware Municipal Electric Corp., DEMEC, has opposed this legislation, along with other energy providers, claiming the bill will have unknown costs.
“Now is not the time to impose legislation without the input of customers – those who are most affected,” DEMEC said in a June 16 release. “The economy is fragile. Businesses and citizens are already struggling. It is irresponsible of the legislature to impose more costs on them now.”
For up-to-date information on Delaware’s legislative activity, go to the General Assembly online at https://legis.delaware.gov/.