Delaware lawmakers elect first female House speaker and wrap up session with flurry of bills

today07/05/2023 56

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DOVER, Del. (AP) — Delaware lawmakers wrapped up this year’s legislative session on Friday with a flurry of votes and the election of the first female House speaker in state history.

House members chose Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst to succeed fellow Democrat Pete Schwartzkopf as speaker. Schwartzkopf told lawmakers he is stepping down from the leadership post after 11 years to spend more time with his family, but that he will serve the remainder of his House term.

Longhurst will lead an all-female House leadership trio, with Majority Whip Melissa Minor-Brown being promoted to majority leader and first-year lawmaker Kerri Evelyn Harris chosen majority whip.

Meanwhile Friday, lawmakers in both chambers gave final approval to a host of bills, including government spending, police reform and environmental measures.

Among the approved bills was a measure requiring newly constructed single-family and multi-family residential dwellings to include electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Lawmakers also passed a bill directing state environmental officials to study transmission impacts of offshore wind development, work with neighboring states on offshore wind transmission and study a process for procuring offshore wind power.

Those bills were among several environmental measures lawmakers approved this year. Others include establishing a goal of reducing net greenhouse gas emission by 50% by 2030, compared to a 2005 baseline, and net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Lawmakers also approved a bill prohibiting restaurants from serving food in containers made of polystyrene starting July 1, 2025. Food establishments also will be prohibited from providing single-use plastic straws unless requested by customers. Plastic coffee stirrers, cocktail picks and sandwich picks will be banned.

Other bills require a gradually increasing percentage of school buses purchased by the Department of Education each year to be electric vehicles and new commercial buildings with foundation footprints of 50,000 square feet (4,645 square meters) or more to be able to support rooftop solar infrastructure. Lawmakers also codified an electric vehicle rebate program.

Among other legislation passed this year were bills:
— authorizing paid bereavement leave for state employees who experience a miscarriage, stillbirth or other pregnancy loss, including elective abortion.
— eliminating a 3-month waiting period before the state begins paying its share of health care coverage for new employees.
— mandating a 60-cent monthly surcharge on every cell phone line and telephone landline, and a 60-cent one-time fee on prepaid wireless phones, to fund behavioral health crisis intervention and suicide hotline services.
— changing requirements for placement on Delaware’s sex offender registry for individuals who commit sexual offenses as juveniles.
— revising the state’s needle exchange program to provide new needles and syringes to drug addicts based on their needs, rather than requiring they turn in one used syringe for each new one received. State officials estimate an additional 850,000 to 1.36 million syringes per year will be needed.
— adding driving a motor vehicle at 90 mph or more to the definition of reckless driving.
— allowing abortion providers and their employees to apply for participation in an address confidentiality program allowing them to use substitute addresses for mail delivery.
— requiring candidates for statewide office, the General Assembly and elected county offices to request criminal history background checks. The commissioner of elections would then determine if the candidate is qualified to appear on the ballot.

Source: AP – All contents copyright 2023 Associated Press.  All rights reserved.

Written by: Editor

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