Sussex County Delaware

Delaware Legislative
Week in Review
Week in Review, June 6, 2003 ...

Hunting, Shooting Range
Bills Headed to Senate
Hunting, Shooting Range Bills OKd ...

Two bills dealing with hunting and shooting have passed the House of Representatives.

House Bill 160 would allow hunting on private property on Sunday afternoons. Currently, Delaware is one of only five states in the nation that prohibits Sunday hunting.

Prime sponsor of the bill, State Rep. John Atkins (R-Millsboro), says the legislation would provide families that are forced to work six days a week with an opportunity to hunt together. He also said it would provide an additional opportunity to control Delaware's burgeoning deer population.

Hunting on Sunday would be restricted to private property and could only take place after noon (12 o'clock).

The measure will not apply to waterfowl hunting. Rep. Atkins said migratory birds are regulated under federal guidelines and HB 160 could have inadvertently resulted in shortening those seasons.

House Bill 164, which also cleared the State House, seeks to shield most existing shooting ranges, hunting operations and hunt clubs from nuisance law suits. Prime sponsor of the bill, State Rep. Dick Cathcart (R-Middletown), says the legislation is similar to a law enacted several years ago that protects Delaware farmers from nuisance complaints resulting from new residents who move into an agricultural area and are then annoyed by the noise and smell of farm operations.

Rep. Cathcart says the purpose of HB 164 is to protect existing shooting ranges and hunting operations from nuisance suits brought by persons who have recently moved into the area and who have "come to the nuisance."

Both bills are pending action in the Senate Executive Committee.

House OKs Bill to Overhaul Sentencing ...

On a unanimous vote, the House passed a bill seeking to redefine sentencing for a wide range of crimes.

House Bill 210 calls for mandatory minimums for certain drug offenses to be decreased. It would also give judges and the Department of Corrections more flexibility over how and where some drug offenders, and those guilty of specific motor vehicle offenses, serve their time.

Other mandatory minimums would be increased under the bill. The current sentence for second-degree murder would be raised, and those committing first and second-degree burglary would face mandatory minimums for the first time.

The proposal would also establish a one-year mandatory sentence for any juvenile found guilty of committing the felonies of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony or first-degree robbery (where either a deadly weapon is displayed or serious physical injury is caused to the victim).

Supporters of the bill say the changes will allow the state to make the best use of its available prison space and will result in a more equitable sentencing system. Forty of the General Assembly's 62 legislators have signed onto the bill.

The prime House sponsors of the bill include House Majority Leader Wayne Smith (R-Brandywine Hundred North) and State Reps. Nancy Wagner (R-Dover), John VanSant (D-Woodcrest), Joe DiPinto (R-Wilmington West), and Bruce Ennis (D-Smyrna).

Bill Aims to Increase Substitute Teachers ...

State Representative Deborah D. Hudson (R-Fairthorne), State Representative Joseph W. Booth (R-Georgetown) and Senator Charles L. Copeland (R-West Farms) are sponsoring legislation aimed at increasing Delaware's pool of available qualified substitute teachers.

The legislation, House Bill 207, would require professional employees of the Department of Education (DOE) to substitute teach in a local Delaware school district for a minimum of 10 days each school year.

"In Delaware, it is very difficult sometimes to find substitute teachers, which not only are competent but also available on a particular day to fill-in on often short notice," Rep. Hudson said. "My legislation solves that problem by allowing Department of Education employees to be available to substitute teach for just 10 days a year."

"As a former member of the Indian River School Board, I think this bill will go a long way toward keeping the department in tune with what it is happening at the local level," Rep. Booth said. "Department employees will get a first hand account of what our teachers face everyday. Both teachers and DOE employees work closely together on many education-related issues, and this bill will help strengthen that partnership."

Senator Copeland, also a lead sponsor of the bill, said, "Department of Education employees have the expertise on classroom operation, and in many cases, they have advanced education degrees, allowing them to use their education background, combined with their classroom experience, to maintain that close connection with teachers."

Atkins Supports Special Olympics ...

State Rep. John Atkins (R-Millsboro) joined police officers recently to raise funds for Special Olympics.

Starting at the Rehoboth Beach Bandstand, the group began the Eastern Leg of the Law Enforcement for Special Olympics Delaware Torch Run.

Carrying "The Flame of Hope", volunteers covered 160-miles over a three-day period (June 4-6) that culminated with the touch's arrival at University of Delaware to begin the Special Olympics Delaware Summer Games.

Delegation Explores International Relations ...

State Rep. Joe Miro (R-Pike Creek) is leading a select Delaware delegation heading to the nation's capital to examine how international issues impact Delaware.

"Although many people are not consciously aware of it, globalization is revolutionizing the world we live in and touching every aspect of our lives," Rep. Miro said.

"The expansion of international trade and communication is increasingly factoring into decisions that effect what businesses will come to Delaware and which existing jobs will remain here. Globalization isn't just about importing Chilean fruit at the Port of Wilmington or exporting chicken parts to Russia. Globalization is the key component in determining what role Delaware businesses and residents will play in the emerging world of the 21st Century."

Besides Rep. Miro, who chairs the delegation, the seven-member group includes: State Representative Joe DiPinto; Delaware Economic Development Office Director Judy McKinney-Cherry; New Castle County Council President Chris Coons; Shuhan Wang, Supervisor of Foreign Language and Other Programs for the Delaware Department of Education; Jeanne Mell, with the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce; and Steve League, Industrial and International Affairs, MBNA.

Rep. Miro notes that state and local taxpayers will not incur any expense for the program. The cost of the delegation's meals, lodging and program attendance are being paid with a combination of private donations and a grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

Joining the Delaware leaders are delegations from seven other states: California, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Utah, and Washington.

This is the fifth year for the Governing in the Global Age program, which is hosted by The Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University.

New Castle Water Bill Passes ...

The House has passed legislation intended to ensure that northern New Castle County (NCCo) can fully meet its water needs by 2010, even under drought conditions. Also known as the Water Supply Self-Sufficiency Act of 2003, the measure would require investor-owned and larger municipal water utilities to adopt conservation water rates.

Conservation rates increase the cost individuals pay for water as their usage increases.

"It really puts a pricing mechanism in place to discourage the wanton waste of water by giving people a financial incentive to conserve, and it works," Rep. Smith said. "[Conservation pricing] is practiced in the Western U.S., where of course it's usually dry. Artesian Water practices a form of it here in their service area and they've calculated they've saved about 140 million gallons of water a year because of the conservation pricing strategy they employ."

The bill also seeks to require water utilities to certify every three years that they can meet the projected demand of their service area during the following three-year period. The bill includes further requirements to facilitate the transfer and sale of water between utilities.

Rep. Smith says he believes that if HB 118 is enacted and fully implemented, it will largely eliminate the need to impose severe water-use restrictions like those implemented during the 2002 drought emergency.

HB 118 would also establish a Drinking Water Well Replacement and Rehabilitation Loan/Grant Program to provide low-interest loans and/or hardship grants to Delawareans with older, leaking plumbing systems that cause water loss.

Since 1999, the Water Supply Coordinating Council (WSCC) has been working to increase the supply of water available to residents and businesses in NCCo. Over the last four years, 720 million gallons has been added to the system. An additional 377 million gallons will be available by the end of 2003, and almost 600 million gallons more is likely to come on line within two to three years. Rep. Smith said HB 118 is designed to complement and further these efforts.

HB 118 is supported by the Minner administration. It now heads to the Senate for consideration.

Bills Acted on in House ...
  • House Bill 1 -- This bill, offered by State Reps. Bill Oberle (R-Beecher's Lot) and Bruce Reynolds (R-Bear), would require that collective bargaining agreements between public school employers and employees include binding arbitration provisions. HB 1 would establish a panel of arbitrators consisting of retired judges and supplemented by labor arbitrators. Arbitrators would be selected by lottery to avoid the selection of arbitrators in a manner that would encourage compromise decisions. In cases where the arbitrator would rule in favor of one party, the bill requires the losing party to pay the arbitrator's fees and expenses. The arbitrator's fees and expenses would be split between the parties in those cases where the arbitrator is deciding the merits of a dispute.
    (Status: Released from committee. Ready to be debated by the full House.)
  • House Bill 121 -- This bill allows a civic association located in an unincorporated area of New Castle County to contract for residential garbage collection if at least two-thirds of the voting members of the association vote to create a garbage collection district. The contract may be for no longer than three years and must provide for billing directly between the collector and the resident. A resident may opt out of the garbage collection service, but must agree to personally dispose of his or her garbage. A contract awarded under HB 121 would be considered an exclusive franchise to collect garbage in the garbage collection district. The bipartisan measure is sponsored by House Majority Leader Wayne Smith (R-Brandywine Hundred North) and State Sen. Dave McBride (D-Hawk's Nest)
    (Status: Released from committee. Ready to be debated by the full House.)
  • House Bill 180 -- This bill seek to ban the sale, transfer, and distribution of Methyl Tertiary-Butyl Ether (MTBE), or any motor fuel containing MTBE, within Delaware. MTBE is a gasoline additive that allows gas to burn more efficiently and reduces air pollution. However, MTBE has proven to be a common source of water pollution, finding its way into surface and groundwater through spillage and leaking storage tanks. The chemical moves easily through water and is difficult to remove once it contaminates a water source. Prime sponsor, State Rep. Dick Cathcart (R-Middletown), introduced similar legislation in the last General Assembly, but that bill was unable to make its way through the process prior to the end of the session.
    (Status: Released from committee. Ready to be debated by the full House.)
  • House Bill 192 -- This bill sees to create the Community Environmental Project Fund. The new fund would be financed by earmarking 25 percent of the civil and administrative penalties collected by the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control for various environmental protection violations. This bill would require that money collected for the fund be used for pollution elimination, abatement or mitigation in the same communities where the violations occurred. The prime House sponsors on the bill are: State Reps. Wayne Smith (R-Brandywine Hundred), Greg Lavelle (R-Sharpley), Dave Ennis (R-Fox Point) and Bob Valihura (R-Delaware North).
    (Status: Released from committee. Ready to be debated by the full House.)

    * Partial list, only includes action on selected bills.

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