Delaware officials are gearing up for a new legislative session that begins Jan. 8, with a host of new lawmakers who were elected in November.
Meanwhile, some of the bills passed by their predecessors are about to become law. Here's a look at some of the new laws that were enacted in 2018 and that took effect on Jan. 1, 2019:
Delaware's minimum wage increases from $8.25 to $8.75. A training minimum wage and a youth wage that is not more than 50 cents less than the minimum wage rate also takes effect that day. A bill raising the minimum wage was rammed through by Democrats in the middle of the night on the final day of the session with no Republican support. The legislation called for increasing the minimum wage to $8.75 an hour on Oct. 1, 2018, and by another 50 cents to $9.25 an hour effective Oct. 1, 2019. The bill, which cleared the Democrat-led House and Senate by one-vote margins, was introduced after similar legislation was defeated earlier in the year. Angry GOP lawmakers responded by withholding support for a key budget bill. In a compromise, Democrats then agreed to a GOP proposal to delay implementation of the minimum wage increase to January and to allow employers to pay minors and probationary workers 50 cents less per hour.
A new law requires the Delaware Department of Labor to create an information sheet pertaining to sexual harassment that employers must distribute to employees. Employers having 50 or more employees also will be required to provide sexual harassment training to all employees and supervisory employees every two years. Training for new employees must be held within one year of hiring, and every two years afterward. Training for existing employees must be held within one year of the new law taking effect, and every two years afterward.
CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS
A law requires lodging establishments with an appliance that emits carbon monoxide or which have an attached garage to have working carbon monoxide detection devices in each dwelling or sleeping unit.
PUBLIC WORKS PROJECTS
A law requires the Delaware Department of Transportation to implement a performance-based rating system for contractors on public works projects, using factors such as project management, scheduling, quality of work, and environmental compliance. Officials are still working on draft regulations to implement the new law. The regulations are expected to be promulgated by Feb. 1 at the earliest, after which officials will start performing contractor evaluations. The scores on those evaluations will form the basis for each contractor's performance rating. A company with a performance rating below 85 percent would be allowed to bid on a contract only if it agrees that the state can withhold a percentage of payments due under the contract until substantial completion and approval of final payment.
PRESCRIPTION DRUG ASSISTANCE
A law restores the Delaware Prescription Drug Payment Assistance Program, which had been eliminated in the fiscal 2018 budget. Participants must be 65 or older or otherwise eligible for Social Security benefits, be ineligible for Medicaid prescription benefits, and have income below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, or prescription drug expenses exceeding 40 percent of annual income. Payment assistance may not exceed $3,000 in any benefit year.