House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf and Senate President Pro Tempore David McBride announced a plan that would end last-minute legislation on non-budget matters.
The plan would establish June 10 as the final day that each chamber’s committees could consider bills originating in their respective chambers.
Bills would need to be passed by each originating chamber the following session day on June 11.
The last normally scheduled committee day for each chamber would be the following week, on June 17, the final day each chamber’s committees will consider bills from the opposite chamber.
Budget, bond bill and grant-in-aid legislation will not bound by these procedures. Special committee meetings still could be scheduled to consider legislation after that date. House and Senate rules also can be suspended to allow for votes on bills without a committee hearing in the event of an emergency.
The change comes after a lingering controversy over last-minute legislation that allow room tax revenues collected in Kent County to go to the DE Turf athletic complex. The bill became law. However, its sponsor later asked the county to not consider the tax after a controversy over the measure.
“We have heard the concerns legislators, advocates and residents have raised about the late flood of bills that pass through our chambers in June,” said Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach. “By implementing a last committee day and announcing it in January, we are sending a clear message that we intend to alleviate that late logjam. We have discussed this proposal with the governor’s office and our Republican colleagues, and we are confident this will help us have a smoother, more orderly final weeks of session.”
Rep. Schwartzkopf and Sen. McBride, D-Hawks Nest New Castle, noted that if this process works well this year, both chambers could incorporate it into their respective rules, which the House and Senate enact at the beginning of each two-year General Assembly.
Rep. Schwartzkopf and Sen. McBride announced that both chambers fully intend to finish session by 1 a.m. or earlier on July 1, shortly after the constitutionally mandated legislative special session begins after midnight.
While June 30 is regarded as the last day of each session, the General Assembly must remain in session past midnight to trigger a special session so each body can call itself back into session during the recess from July through early January if needed.
Last year, both chambers completed their legislative business at or before 1 a.m., the first time that had happened in recent memory.
Republicans legislators pushed for a package of reforms, but efforts did not gain traction in a House and Senate with majority control by Democrats.