Delaware lawmakers return today for the start of session

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Legislative Hall

State lawmakers return to Dover today for the start of the second leg of the 150th Delaware General Assembly.

Over the course of last session, lawmakers passed a series of criminal justice reform bills, increased the age to purchase tobacco products to 21, and added an Equal Rights Amendment to the state’s constitution.

Following a six-month break, Delaware legislators are faced with a host of key issues to tackle in the form of leftover legislation as they reconvene for the start of session, including a bill to legalize marijuana that is currently awaiting a floor vote.

The legislation would regulate and tax marijuana in the same manner as alcohol, allowing adults to legally possess and consume under an ounce of marijuana for personal use. It would not permit people to grow their own.

Also on the table is a bill allowing terminally ill patients to use medication to end their lives.

The End of Life Options Act, if passed, sets procedures for terminally ill adults to request medication that they could use to end their life, but only after the patient in question has sought counseling, a physician’s evaluation, and underwent a waiting period.

Several other bills will likely be considered this session, including legislation to reinstate the death penalty, and another to protect drinking water and provide a funding source to enhance and accelerate efforts to clean up contaminated water sources across the state.

Attempts to pass strict gun control measures have been defeated in past sessions but will likely be considered this year as well, including yet another bill to ban so-called assault weapons that sources tells WGMD are currently in the works amongst Democratic lawmakers.

Moving forward, House Minority Leader Danny Short hopes to gain support for two pieces of legislation that would reform the way bills are passed and increase transparency in the legislative process.

“I think Delaware is a state that considers bills in a very unprofessional manner,” Rep. Short said. “We have bills that are introduced in the last several days that no one’s ever seen. So, I think our system is broken and there’s ways to fix that if folks would entertain some innovative solutions to this.”

Rep. Short called the current legislative system “broken” and said the way legislation is passed at the last second, annually, is “unprofessional.”

“Delaware is different from a lot of other states,” Rep. Short explained. “There’s a significant number of states that have a process in place that allows bills brought forth to the General Assembly to be considered in a very methodical way.”

With respect to the budget, state lawmakers were able to balance the budget before the deadline last session unlike the prior year where it took days and required special session.

Governor John Carney will provide legislators with his official budget recommendations at the end of this month, allowing lawmakers months to allocate spending before the deadline in June.