There are several items which are on the front burner in the coming weeks.
Open Government—House Bill 1 (HB1) is getting a hearing. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it is before the Senate Executive Committee (led by Thurman Adams). Other members are Blevins, Cook, DeLuca, Simpson, and Sorenson. The hearing is set for Wednesday the 6th at 2pm. Make it if you can, and contact your senator if you can’t. This bill will open legislative meetings (except caucuses and emails) to the public, by putting it under FOIA, the freedom of information act.
Equality in Delaware—HB5 is sitting in the same committee, with little chance of a hearing. It would make it illegal to discriminate on housing, employment, or insurance, on the basis of sexual orientation. The plan is to petition this bill to the full senate floor on June 2nd, Petition Day, after the bill has been stuck in committee for the ‘required’ 16 legislative days. Please contact your senator to ask them to sign the petition on June 2nd to bring House Bill 5 to the senate floor, for a vote.
Consider a simple message such as `My name is ____ and I live at _________. You are my senator. House Bill 5 helps provide essential civil rights to more Delawareans. If HB5 does not emerge from committee by June 2nd, will you sign a petition on June 2nd to bring it to the senate floor? I hope that you will join me in supporting equal rights for all. Thank you.'
Newark Alderman’s Court—I wrote about this last month. The bill is out of committee, and awaits a full senate vote. Please ask your senator to vote against this bill.
Senate Bill 42 (SB42), from Tony DeLuca, at first glance appears well-intentioned—let defendants from Newark’s Alderman’s Court have the right to be heard at Wilmington’s Court of Common Pleas. Why do folks (including myself) oppose SB42? Newark and Newark Alderman’s court is unique in the state—and it works. We are the only Delaware city with a college that doubles our population for a majority of the year, and our Alderman’s Court is the only one in the state with a lawyer who serves (with senate approval) as chief alderman. Newark therefore gets a boatload of minor noise, disturbing the peace, and traffic violations (thousands a year), which we deal with right in Newark. Defendants avoid the need (and expense) to go to Wilmington, and so do our police officers. Moving this caseload to Wilmington is wasteful (reducing our police officers’ time on the streets, and further overburdening the Wilmington courts). Defendants already have the right to appeal all judgments of more than $100 to Wilmington courts. Note that the sponsors do not have constituents in downtown Newark—it is the moral equivalent of having Newark’s Senator Liane Sorenson sponsor a bill to double the parking meters in Rehobeth. SB42 appears to be retaliation by DeLuca for the city’s resolution favoring open government in the General Assembly, a direction that DeLuca detests. Let your senator and representative know that Newark’s Alderman’s court works just fine, and don’t break it—oppose SB42.
Equality in Newark—I believe that the Monday May 11th city council meeting will include a review of the proposed LBGT protection provisions which came up in March, with great community support. If you live in the city of Newark, please either attend the meeting, or let your council person and mayor know that you support equal rights for city residents and employees, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Go to http://www.cityofnewarkde.us/index.asp?NID=475 to see the council member listing.