Civil rights, to-go alcohol and student safety bills pass Delaware House

By Logan B. Anderson
Posted 1/28/22

DOVER — The Delaware State House of Representatives passed measures related to civil rights, to-go alcohol sales from restaurants and youth suicide and teen domestic violence prevention efforts …

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Civil rights, to-go alcohol and student safety bills pass Delaware House

Posted

DOVER — The Delaware State House of Representatives passed measures related to civil rights, to-go alcohol sales from restaurants and youth suicide and teen domestic violence prevention efforts on Thursday, the last legislative day before lawmakers break for its Joint Finance Session.

In June, Rep. Kendra Johnson, D-Bear, introduced House Bill 255, an act to create a new crime called deprivation of civil rights.

The bill was released from the House Judiciary Committee last year and made it to the House floor on Thursday. The law if enacted, will be enforced by the Delaware Department of Justice’s Division of Civil Rights and Public Trust.

HB255 would make it a criminal offense for any person or group to knowingly deny anyone, for example, the right to vote, freedom of speech or the right to peacefully assemble.

The leader of the DOJ’s civil rights division, Deputy Attorney General Mark Denney, testified during Thursday’s House session on Thursday.

“This is something that if there’s an egregious enough example of a constitutional civil rights violation, that it can be actionable by way of a Class A misdemeanor,” Mr. Denney said.

The bill unanimously passed the House of Representatives and will now go to the Senate for consideration.

To-go alcohol sales bill

Wrapping up on the last legislative day before the General Assembly’s budget break, the House of Representatives voted to approve HB290.

The legislation, introduced by House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, and sponsored by Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes, was written to remove a sunset provision to a policy created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that allowed bars and restaurants to sell to-go alcoholic beverages and utilize extended outdoor seating.

This is the bill’s second time before the House of Representatives. On Jan. 13, House members approved the act with two amendments. Lawmakers said to-go beverages could only be sold by servers with Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement certifications. The beverages had to be sealed in a way that they couldn’t be easily consumed and they put a limit on what could be purchased.

When the Senate approved the bill on Jan. 20, members added two more amendments.

The language of the first Senate amendment came straight from the state’s Division of Public Health. The modification relates to the bill’s outdoor seating permissions and requires restaurants to comply with the Delaware Food Code as a requirement for any expansion of outdoor seating. The second Senate amendment added a food purchase requirement when taking out alcohol from a restaurant.

Sen. David Sokola, D-Newark, introduced the food-purchase-requirement amendment. It decreed that in addition to volume limitations, a restaurant must sell a minimum of $10 worth of food as part of the takeout, curbside or drive-thru transaction.

HB290 was quickly approved by House of Representatives on Thursday, with only Rep. Paul Baumbach, D-Newark, choosing not to vote on the bill.

The act will now be sent to Gov. John Carney’s desk to be signed into law. For the to-go alcohol sales practice to continue in any form in Delaware, Gov. Carney has to sign HB290 into law before the end of March.

Changing school ID cards

In an effort to put potentially lifesaving resources directly in the hands of Delaware’s students, the House of Representatives voted to approve HB254. The measure would require all public middle and high schools and colleges and universities that issue student identification cards to print helpline phone numbers and safety contact information on them.

The measure sets out that all public schools that serve seventh- through 12th-grade students, that issue ID cards, would have to include the National Suicide Prevention and National Domestic Violence hotlines. The bill also allows them to add the National Sexual Assault, Teen Dating Violence and bullying hotlines too.

For Delaware’s public institutions of higher learning that issue ID cards, the act would also have them add telephone or text numbers for the school’s public safety officials.

If enacted, it would be implemented starting for the 2022-2023 school year.

The bill will now be sent to the state Senate for consideration.