For Immediate Release:
Wednesday, January 24, 2024, 11 a.m.
For More Information:
Matt Revel: 302-744-4085
Joe Fulgham: 302-744-4184
Hoping to build on some recent success, House and Senate Republicans today discussed four reform proposals they are backing this year to improve public awareness and media scrutiny of bills moving through the state legislature.
After many failed attempts, Delaware finally eliminated an antiqued practice of working into the early morning hours on the last night of the legislative session this past year. State House Minority Whip Lyndon Yearick (R-Camden-Wyoming) said if the legislature can come together to pass that bipartisan constitutional amendment, perhaps the time is right to consider further needed reforms.
Creating a Crossover Day in Delaware
Rep. Yearick is sponsoring House Bill 269, the first leg of a proposed constitutional amendment seeking to create a ‘crossover day.’ The measure would establish a deadline near the end of the annual legislative session, after which no new bills could crossover from one chamber to the next. At least 26 states have such laws, including Maryland, Virginia, and Georgia.
“The Delaware General Assembly currently has no restriction on when bills can be introduced,” Rep. Yearick said. “Implementing this change would prevent a complicated or contentious bill from being fast-tracked through the legislature in the session’s last few days, or hours, without proper public notice or committee consideration.”
The bill, which has some bipartisan support, would set Delaware Crossover Day on or before June 20th. The amendment would not apply to resolutions and the state’s operating budget, capital budget, or Grants-in-Aid bill. “The money bills already get a lot of attention and typically come in late due to the last state revenue estimate issued in June,” Rep. Yearick said. “My proposal also contains an emergency contingency, allowing the crossover restriction to be waived by a two-thirds supermajority vote.”
State Sen. Eric Buckson (R-Dover South), the prime Senate sponsor of the bill, said the proposal has already proven its worth. “We’re not on the leading edge of this reform,” he said. “Most states already have a crossover day and have used it for years. If there is an argument against it, I have yet to hear it.”
HB 269 is currently pending consideration in the House Administration Committee.
A supplemental proposal sponsored by Rep. Yearick would bar the introduction of any new legislation in either chamber after June 15. “The Crossover Day amendment would prevent legislation from advancing to the other chamber without an opportunity for due consideration,” he said. “This constitutional amendment would complement that objective by barring bills that cannot move forward from being needlessly introduced. The same exceptions that apply to Crossover Day would be applicable here,” he said.
Eliminating “Double-Dipping” by Government Officials
A reintroduction of House Bill 126 (150th GA), this Senate Bill will be sponsored by State Senate Republican Leader Gerald Hocker (R-Ocean View). It seeks to prevent double-dipping by elected officials or paid appointed officials at the state, county, or local levels — who are also employed by any government agency, education, or other institution – to disclose such employment to the Public Integrity Commission. The disclosure would assist the commission and the State Auditor to evaluate if the official received dual compensation for overlapping work hours.
“This seems like a bill that should have flown through the legislature the first time it was filed,” Sen. Hocker said. “Yet, it died in committee without consideration. That was five years ago, and the original sponsor, Ruth Briggs King, is no longer here. I feel the obligation to revisit it. Maybe this time, anyone who’s opposing this could provide their rationale. I’d love to hear it.”
Preventing Members of the House & Senate from Evading Public Scrutiny of Their Bills
The House of Representatives and Senate have rules requiring that the bills introduced in each chamber receive a committee hearing, requiring advance public notification and an opportunity for expert testimony and public comment. The hearings are streamed online, and the recordings of the events are posted for review.
“The committees are where the bills are typically parsed and analyzed,” said State Rep. Jeff Spiegelman (R-Clayton). “The problem is that this deliberative process can be easily short-circuited. Both chambers can frustrate these protections by simply choosing not to follow the rules. Worse, these are simple majority voice votes, where the individual votes are not recorded, and no one is held accountable.”
Rep. Spiegelman and Sen. Buckson plan to introduce separate reform resolutions in their respective chambers requiring a three-fifths (60%) majority to suspend the rules and that the votes cast by each legislator be recorded.
“Cutting the corners to eliminate public notice and citizen input on legislation is not an act that should be taken lightly or easily done,” Sen. Buckson said. “These changes in the House and Senate rules would modestly raise the bar on these actions and require legislators to publicly take responsibility for their decisions when they chose to eliminate these safeguards.”