Marijuana bill pulled from Delaware House agenda

By Matt Bittle
Posted 6/10/21

DOVER -- A bill to legalize recreational marijuana will not be voted on by the House of Representatives today after all.

Though the measure had been slated for a vote today since last week, the …

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Marijuana bill pulled from Delaware House agenda


DOVER — A bill to legalize recreational marijuana did not receive a vote by the House of Representatives Thursday after all.

Although the measure had been slated for a vote on that day since at least last week, the lead sponsor announced about three hours before the House went into session, it would not be considered just yet.

“House Bill 150 is an extremely important piece of legislation with many complicated moving parts,” said Rep. Ed Osienski, D-Newark, in a statement.

“In recent days, a number of amendments have been filed by myself and other legislators that would make significant changes to the bill as written. Accordingly, my colleagues and I need time to consider the implications of these various amendments before bringing the bill to the House floor for a vote.

“This is one piece of legislation that we have to get right, and I encourage my fellow legislators, advocates and supporters of the bill to please be patient as we continue to work toward the goal of legalizing marijuana for adult recreational use in Delaware.”

A total of 10 amendments, four of which are from Rep. Osienski, have been filed.

The measure, which has yet to see a vote in either chamber, needs a supermajority of 60%, or 25 votes, to pass the House because it would create a new tax.

Juvenile mugshots

A bill filed Thursday would prohibit law enforcement from publishing mugshots and names of minors arrested for most crimes.

House Bill 243 states police can only release the name or mugshot of someone younger than 18 if the individual is charged with a violent felony and release of the photograph or name is necessary to protect public safety.

“As we know, information that is posted on the internet lives on forever and can follow a person around for years. In that way, a mistake someone made as a teenager can come back to haunt them in adulthood, hurting their job prospects, even if they have managed to put their life on the right track,” main sponsor Rep. Franklin Cooke, D-New Castle, said in a statement. “Worse, posting a mugshot of a juvenile online when they are simply charged with or sought in connection with a crime associates them with that offense, even if the charges are dropped, or if they found not responsible.

“If we really believe that these juvenile mugshots can have serious ramifications that follow people around for the rest of their lives, we must look backward before we can truly move forward. I’m hopeful this bill will win quick approval from the General Assembly and end this hurtful practice.”

Gov. John Carney issued an executive order last year barring state law enforcement agencies that fall under the executive branch, such as the Delaware State Police and Capitol Police, from releasing juvenile mugshots. However, there is no universal policy among Delaware’s four dozen or so police agencies regarding publication of mugshots of minors.

The bill has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.

Thursday votes

The House passed a number of bills Thursday, including a measure increasing funding for students with basic special-education needs in kindergarten through third grade. Though all students in the complex and intensive special-education categories generate state funding to support them, students in the basic classification do not until fourth grade.

House Bill 86 is expected to lead to the hiring of about 130 new teachers. It now goes to the Senate.

“We know without a doubt that early identification and intervention are critical to a child’s overall success in school and life. No effort to improve the quality of public education in our state can be considered complete without a commitment to serve these students from their earliest school years,” main sponsor Rep. Kim Williams, D-Newport, said in a statement.

“My colleagues and I have worked to advance this legislation for nearly six years, and though it is long overdue, I am thrilled that it is now coming to fruition.”

Rep. Rich Collins, R-Millsboro, was the only person to vote against the proposal, expressing concerns too many children, especially those of color, are being placed in special education.

Full state funding for basic K-3 special education services was part of an agreement reached last fall between the state and a group of advocates to settle a suit challenging Delaware’s method of funding public education.

The House also overwhelmingly approved a bill that would allow middle- and high-school students to miss one day of school a year to attend a “civic engagement activity, which includes visiting Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. or Legislative Hall in Dover, visiting a site of significant historical or cultural importance, advocating for or testifying on behalf of legislation, or participating in a rally, march or protest.”

Meanwhile, the second leg of a constitutional amendment to remove barriers around absentee voting failed in a party-line vote. The proposal, which would remove a set of specific reasons governing when someone can vote absentee, did not garner the requisite two-thirds supermajority (28 votes).

An identical version passed in 2019 with few votes against, but since then, voting issues have become even more partisan as a result of the 2020 election. Republicans at the national level have assailed mail-in voting, falsely claiming it is rife with fraud, while President Donald Trump has refused to accept his loss in November, repeatedly peddling lies about its validity.

“The rhetoric around this particular policy has been tainted over the past year,” main sponsor Rep. Dave Bentz, D-Christiana, noted on the House floor.

In a statement Thursday night, House Minority Leader Danny Short, R-Seaford, explained his party's vote and blasted Democrats.

"To be clear, despite the sponsors’ claims, the bill does not authorize ‘no excuse’ absentee voting.  Rather, it eliminates from the state constitution the provisions authorizing absentee voting and gives the General Assembly the ability to enact new laws to recreate it in whatever fashion legislators see fit," he said.

"That change significantly lowers the bar for majority Democrats to manipulate the law, with no Republican votes needed.  Using that power, I believe they intend to turn no excuse absentee voting into a ‘vote by mail’ system – a scheme that will benefit Democrats. 

"Any doubt about the partisan nature of this issue was erased after today’s vote.  There were three Republican bills on Thursday’s House Agenda, one of which, ironically, was to make it easier for people to vote in municipal elections.  (House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, D-Bear) refused to allow any of those bills to be voted on in an act of retribution for the Republican vote on HB 75.  We may not have seen the last of this bill, but House Democrats have given us even less reason to trust their good intentions on this issue.”