Bills on Gun Crime, Electricity, and Taxes Moving Through the Legislature

Posted on 01-24-2021

Increasing Food Donations to Those in Need:  This bipartisan measure (House Bill 52) seeks to build on existing federal law to offer additional protections in Delaware to individuals and organizations donating food in good faith. Among other things, the bill would:
  • Extend the same civil or criminal liability protections to those donating to a state agency as already exist to those donating food to nonprofit organizations.
  • Expand the definition of “food” to cover perishable food and wild game.
  • Shield from civil or criminal liability those donating deer to the Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Sportsmen Against Hunger program as well as people processing wild game donated to a nonprofit organization or state agency.
Past similar efforts have been opposed by Delaware’s trial lawyers.  Sponsors and co-sponsors include: State Reps. Jeff Spiegelman and Mike Ramone; State Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, et. al.  STATUS: Pending action in the House Health & Human Development Committee. 
Closing Gun Crime Loophole: This bipartisan measure seeks to close a gap in existing Delaware law by making it a crime for a person who is not otherwise legally eligible to own, possess, or purchase a firearm or ammunition to attempt to obtain the same through fraud, deceit, or deception.
Sponsors and Co-sponsors include: State Rep. Michael Smith; State Sen. Brain Pettyjohn, et. al.
STATUS: Pending action in the House Judiciary Committee.
Increasing Taxes on High-Wage Earners: This bill seeks to increase the personal income tax on high-wage earners in Delaware. Specifically, it proposes creating the following new tax brackets: at $125,000, with a rate of 7.10%; at $250,000, with a rate of 7.85%; and at $500,000, with a rate of 8.6%.
Sponsors and co-sponsors include: State Rep. John Kowalko and 12 other House and Senate Democrats. No Republican sponsorship.
STATUS: Pending action in the House Revenue & Finance Committee.
Banning Predatory Prescription Drug Price Hikes: This measure (House Bill 62) is based on a Model Act to Prevent Excessive and Unconscionable Prices for Prescription Drugs developed by the National Academy for State Health Policy. It would prohibit manufacturers from raising the price of prescription drugs beyond what could be justified under certain market conditions. It is specifically limited to the prices charged for generic and off-patent drugs.  A manufacturer or distributor would be prohibited from withdrawing a generic or off-patent drug for sale to avoid application of the legislation.  Violators would face fines.
Sponsors and co-sponsors include: State Reps. Andria Bennett, Michael Smith and Danny Short, et. al.
STATUS: Pending action in the House Economic Development/Banking/Insurance & Commerce Committee
Providing a Tax Break on Unemployment Benefits: Among other things, this bipartisan bill (House Bill 65) includes a provision to exempt unemployment compensation benefits received in 2020 from the calculation of Delaware adjusted gross income so that unemployment claimants will not have to pay state taxes on the benefits they received during the pandemic.
Sponsors and co-sponsors include: State Reps. Ruth Briggs King and Lyndon Yearick, et. al.
STATUS: Passed the House unanimously, pending action in the Senate Labor Committee.
Suicide Prevention: This bipartisan legislation (House Bill 55) seeks to establish the Delaware Gun Shop Project, the primary purpose of which would be to develop, create, and provide suicide prevention education materials and training that would be made available to firearms dealers and consumers. A coalition staffed by the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health would oversee the effort and issue an annual report. The concept first began in New Hampshire in 2009 and has since expanded to more than 20 states.
Sponsors and co-sponsors include: State Reps. Rich Collins, Danny Short and Ruth Briggs King, et. al.
STATUS: Released from the House Health & Human Development Committee.
Mandating the Increased Use of Renewable Energy: This controversial bill (Senate Bill 33) would significantly increase the percentage of electricity delivered to consumers generated from renewable resources.  Currently, utilities must increase their percentage of renewably generated electricity according to a schedule of minimum annual benchmarks, topping out at 25% in the year 2025.  Additionally, 3.5% of total electricity would need to originate from solar panels. This bill would mandate that utilities continue to ramp-up their use of renewable electricity to achieve 40% by 2035, with 10% of all electricity coming from solar photovoltaics.  Supporters say such action is needed to reduce the use of fossil fuels and to battle climate change and sea-level rise. Critics believe the new mandate would further inflate already high electricity rates, reduce consumer cost protections built into the current law, and potentially undermine the stability of the power grid.
Sponsors and co-sponsors include: Sen. Stephanie Hansen and 22 other House and Senate Democrats. No Republican sponsorship.
STATUS: Passed the Senate on a contested vote of 13 to 8.  Pending action in the House Natural Resources Committee.
Expanding Access to Clean Drinking Water: House Bill 69 seeks to create the Residential Drinking Water Purification System Grant Program. The bill would establish a pilot program through the Department of Health and Social Services that would allow residents that earn income less than 200% of the state poverty level, are not served by a central water system, and whose drinking water does not meet state health standards, to receive a grant to install a water purification system. The prime sponsor of the bill, State Rep. Bryan Shupe, said he was inspired to write the measure after working with a nonprofit organization canvassing the Ellendale area to determine if rural, low-income residents had safe drinking water. The bill seeks to establish a 2-year pilot program using existing state funds. The cost would be capped at $49,000 annually.
Sponsors and Co-sponsors include: State Reps. Bryan Shupe, Steve Smyk and Ron Gray; State Sen. Dave Wilson, et. al.
STATUS: Pending action in the House Judiciary Committee.