Eight bills were discussed and passed through the Senate Thursday and are heading to Gov. John Carney’s desk for signature in what is the last week of the legislative session.
Here’s what is set to become law:
- House Bill 65, also sponsored by Rep. Debra Heffernan, D-Brandywine Hundred South, provides state employees who suffer a miscarriage, stillbirth or other loss, a maximum of five days of paid bereavement leave.
The bill cites data from the Mayo Clinic, including that miscarriages occur in about 20% of all pregnancies, and generally, in the first 12 weeks.
“According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 out of every 100 American pregnancies ends in stillbirth,” the bill reads. “Black women have a significantly higher risk of miscarrying— 43% higher when compared to white women. Black mothers are also more than twice as likely to experience stillbirth compared to Hispanic and white mothers.”
Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, R-Georgetown, supported the bill.
“It’s not easy to lose a child and I just I’m, I’m blessed that Kelly [his wife] and I didn’t have to go through that, but I know many people that have gone through it and how it affects them,” he said. “The child that you lost deserves the same dignity that another child that had been born would have if there was a loss.”
Sen. Bryant Richardson, R-Laurel, did not vote for the bill.
“I’d like to support the bill but because it would also allow elective abortions, I cannot support it,” he said.
- House Bill 188, sponsored by Rep. Sherae’a Moore, D-Middletown, codifies the Equity Ombudsman program, which provides non-lawyer advocates to assist families.
The bill creates an Educational Equity Council, which would oversee the program and would provide broad review, analysis, recommendations and strategic guidance.
Advocates in the program help individual students and families resolve disputes or complaints concerning discipline, inequitable access to school programs, and different or unfair treatment.
For example, if a student believes he was wrongfully suspended, an advocate would help work out a resolution with school officials.
They are not the same as lawyers, and take a backseat to lawyers.
- House Bill 154, sponsored by Rep. Krista Griffith, D-Fairfax, is dubbed the Delaware Personal Data Privacy Act.
The legislation established that Delawareans will have the right to know what information is being collected about them by companies, see the information, correct any inaccuracies or request deletion of their personal data that is being maintained by entities or people.
All entities that conduct business in Delaware must abide by the law if it controls or processes the personal data of at least 35,000 consumers, or if it controls or processes the personal data of at least 10,000 consumers and earns more than 20% of their gross revenue from the sale of personal data.
The Department of Justice would be tasked with engaging with consumers to educate them of their rights, as well as the business community. This campaign must start six months before the law goes into effect, which would be Jan. 1, 2025.
Per the fiscal note, the law comes with an operating cost of $280,454 in fiscal year 2024, $572,126 in fiscal year 2025 and $583,568 for fiscal year 2026. The funds are assumed by the Department of Justice for hiring and other resources.
- House Bill 177, also sponsored by Heffernan, increases the amount of compassionate leave for eligible employees of the state upon the death of an immediate family member from three days to five.
The bill defines “Immediate family” as an employee’s spouse or domestic partner; parent, stepparent or child of the employee, spouse or domestic partner; employee’s grandparent or grandchild; employee’s sibling; or any minor child for whom the employee has assumed and carried out parental responsibilities.
State employees are considered anyone who is a benefit-eligible full-time or part-time employee of the state hired to work 30 or more hours a week.
Per the fiscal note, the law would cost the state $159,291 in fiscal year 2024, $162,477 in fiscal year 2025 and $165,727 in fiscal year 2026.
- House Bill 185, also sponsored by Heffernan, prioritizes recruitment and retention of state employees by removing the three-month waiting period for the state to pay its share of premium or subscription charges for health care coverage.
It will cost the state $2,541,533 in fiscal year 2024, $5,560,875 in fiscal year 2025 and $6,083,597 in fiscal year 2026.
Sen. Eric Buckson, R-Dover, took exception to the bill and was unhappy with the amount it would cost the state.
“Cancer doesn’t wait for someone to hit a three month mark, a car accident doesn’t hold off from happening until a person hits the three month mark, and illness doesn’t wait until a person reaches a threshold with their employer,” said Sen. Sarah McBride, D-Wilmington. “Fundamentally, I’m at a loss when the money is literally already in the budget, when it makes just common sense that this would make the state a more attractive place to work when we’re facing a worker shortage, and just basic compassion for human beings. Why we would say no?”
- House Bill 4, sponsored by Longhurst, intends to provide more behavioral health support to school districts and charter schools in the aftermath of a school-connected traumatic event, which is defined as the death of any student, educator, administrator, or other building employee of a public school.
The Department of Education is charged with developing guidance, best practices, and written resources for schools dealing with a school-connected traumatic event. It will be called Nolan’s Law, named after a student at Wilmington Charter School who committed suicide on Jan. 2, 2022.
- House Bill 186, sponsored by Rep. Cyndie Romer, D-Newark, would remove a requirement that children – even older children who abuse younger children – be placed on the sex offender registry and have judges decide whether to place a child on the registry.
Under the law, an individual placed on the registry could petition to the Family Court to be relieved from the registration or placed on a lower tier, either at the conclusion of any required treatment or after the passage of 2 years for most offenses, or after the passage of 5 years for those offenses that still require mandatory registration.
- House Bill 85, sponsored by Rep. Stephanie Bolden, D-Wilmington, creates a special license plate for retired state legislators.
The act is dubbed “The Senator Margaret Rose Henry Act.”
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a B.A. in journalism and a B.A. in political science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish’s YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before joining Delaware LIVE News.
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