152nd Delaware General Assembly House committees

House committees feature more women, minorities as leaders

Betsy PriceGovernment, Headlines

152nd Delaware General Assembly House committees

More women and people of color will head the Delaware General Assembly’s committees than every before, but Republicans have few seats

The Delaware House of Representatives has announced committee assignments for the 152nd General Assembly, with the Democrats crowing that its slate of chairs and vice-chairs reflect the diversity of the chamber.

More than half of the committees will be chaired by women, while a person of color will serve as chair and/or vice-chair of 13 different committees.

In addition, five first- and second-term representatives will serve as vice-chairs of committees for the first time in a bid to provide more leadership training.

“These committee leaders and members reflect the historic diversity of our chamber and will ensure that the interests of residents throughout the state are heard on various issues,” said House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf in announcing the committees.

Committees must review and approve any new legislation before it goes to the House floor. Many bills are changed dramatically after questions and discussions during bill hearings force changes.

Few Republicans on committees

State Rep. Mike Ramone

Rep. Mike Ramone

As is usual, the committees are dominated by Democrats, who have 26 House members, compared to the Republicans’ 15, with most of those coming from downstate.

The Democrats tell Republicans how many members they can have on committees, said House Minority leader Mike Ramone, R-Pike Creek. The Republican leadership then decides who and where to place its members after canvassing them see which committees they would like to be on.

The party prefers to keep experienced members on what Ramone describes as the “money committees:” Bond, Joint Finance and Sunset, all of which deal with a lot of financial information and allocating of funds.

“I’m a realist: We’re a superminority in the Senate,” Ramone said. “Pretty much the only thing we can fight is the bills where they need three-fourths or three-fifths to pass, because the numbers won’t work. So my theory — and our subject of leadership meeting and our caucus meeting today — is our primary focus is going to be trying to reduce and prevent unintended consequences with the bills the Democrats are going to push.”

The Republicans will still file bills, Ramone said, but don’t expect them to be treated any more kindly than they have been in recent years, when few were heard and of those that were, even fewer progressed to a house floor.

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Ramone said Republicans plan to introduce a change in House rules that would require any bills that have not been heard in committee by the 12th Legislative day to be put on the committee agenda for the 13th Legislative Day.

“That will stop them from keeping them in drawers,” Ramone said.

Similarly, they would like to require any bill that has made it to the House floor and not been put on the agenda by the 12th legislative day to automatically be included on the agenda for the 13th legislative day.

“You know, we don’t believe they’re going to let us modify the rules, but at least we’re asking,” Ramone said. “All we can do is hope that sensible Democrats in the middle will work with us to stop the push of this progressive group that just won all the seats, and that’s scary. It’s very scary.”

Bills that require 2/3s or 3/4s of the House to vote yes include budget and spending bills, as well as constitutional amendments.

Delaware’s General Assembly has a two-year term, meaning that the 152nd Assembly will last from January 2023 through June 2024, with two January-June sessions. Bills that are introduced in 2023 and are not passed in 2023 are still alive for the 2024 session. If they aren’t passed by the end of June 2024, though, they have to be refiled for the next Assembly.

Two committees from the 151st General Assembly have been merged with other existing committees to reduce the total to 21 committees.

Manufactured Housing has been merged with the Housing Committee, while the Energy Committee will be consolidated into the new Natural Resources & Energy Committee.

See the list at legis.delaware.gov.

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