DOVER — The state House of Representatives Thursday nearly unanimously passed bills relating to certified nursing assistant certification for the National Guard and to-go alcohol sales.
HB 280, sponsored primarily by David Bentz, a Newark Democrat, amends the Delaware code relating to regulatory provisions concerning public health. If passed by the Senate, the bill will leave it up to the discretion of the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services over the length of certified nursing assistant training and orientation programs. This change will allow for the rapid certification of National Guard members as CNAs.
“This bill is intended to allow for the flexibility to fast track certification in order to get the necessary workforce and assistance into our hospitals as they deal with the COVID-19 surge that we’re dealing with right now,” Rep. Bentz said.
There were no questions from House members and they all voted Yes.
The House also voted to approve HB290, which would permanently remove the sunset provision of HB 1, and allow food and drink establishments to continue selling alcoholic beverages through takeout, curbside and drivethrough services. Only one member, a Newark Democrat Paul Baumbach, voted in opposition.
Two amendments to the bill were made this week and agreed to by the House. The amendments clarify that such alcoholic beverages must be sold in a container that is designed to prevent consumption without removal of the lid, cap or seal in order to avoid drinking and driving. Additionally, only persons certified by the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement as a responsible alcoholic beverage server, can sell and serve alcoholic beverages in take-out sales.
The next amendment limits the kind and amount of alcoholic beverages that may be sold to one 750 milliliter bottle of wine, six servings of beer, and mixed cocktails that are made in the establishment with a valid on-premise license.
Prime sponsor, Rep. Peter Schwartzkopf, a Lewes Democrat, said the provision was initially an effort to help the restaurant industry stay alive when the pandemic began.
“It was the one thing that (the restaurants) all tell me that helped keep most of them afloat,” he said. “It was the fact that we allowed them to have extended seating and had takeout alcohol with their takeout food.”
Rep. Schwarzkopf added that restaurants are likely to be hit hard again in the coming months due to the surge in omicron cases, so keeping this provision in place will help the industry make it through.
“We’re doing this for the people of our state as well because it has become very, very popular,” Rep. Schwarzkopf added. “And anywhere you go it’s between 80 and 90 percent approval rating.”
Rep. Jeffrey Spiegelman, a Smyrna Republican, asked to clarify that participation in take-out alcohol sales is voluntary.
“I was contacted this morning by a friend of mine who owns a restaurant,” he said. “She had a situation where somebody showed up and started demanding a car-side service, and got actually quite belligerent with the owner.”
Also Thursday, Rep. Krista Griffith acknowledged the death of two former representatives and another Delawarean.
Winifred “Winnie” Spence, who served in the House from 1972-1976 and the Senate from 1976-1980, passed Dec. 25 at the age of 92. Jane Maroney, a House Representative for 20 years, whom Rep. Griffith said “cared deeply” about public health, passed Dec. 28, 2021 at 98 years of age. Finally, Michael Kelly, a Delaware attorney “deeply admired” for his advocacy and pro bono services passed Jan 10 at 65.
House Majority leader Rep. Valerie Longhurst, a Bear Democrat, acknowledged the late Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, not only as a trailblazing woman, but a trailblazer in legislation.
“She was a very strong woman who stood her ground,” Rep. Longhurst said. “Today we reap the benefits of a lot of the legislation that she championed, like the Clean Indoor Air Act. And everybody can agree that was probably one of the best piece of legislation our state could have done. It was difficult at the time and she got a lot of pushback but she got it done.”
Rep. Longhurst also acknowledged the successes of the SEED program, which have given many students the opportunity for a college degree, and credits the former governor for the first piloted full-day kindergarten in the state.
Several representatives spoke about Martin Luther King Jr. as the day commemorating him approaches. Rep. Kendra Johnson, a Bear Democrat, said the day is more than just a holiday.
“While we may do this, year after year, I would hope that it permeates each and every one of our beings, every single day of our lives,” she said. “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taught us that our democracy means nothing if every citizen can’t be a full and active participant in it… While movement and some successes have occurred, we must not be complacent in our responsibilities, our duty, to continue the work to realize this hope.”
Rep. Bryan Shupe, a Milford Republican, spoke of a trip to Atlanta this past weekend, the birthplace of Dr. King, where he was reminded of a letter written by Dr. King from a Birmingham, Alabama jail, which shows his philosophy on just and unjust laws and civil disobedience.
“He always strived to use love as something that would turn away the evil,” Rep. Shupe said. “In times where we’re dealing with a pandemic and dealing with a lot of political strife on a national level, I think that’s one thing that we can really grasp from his intelligence and from his understanding. It is about bringing people together, it’s about bringing out love and it’s about bringing the good works of others in the limelight in order to push injustice out.”
Rep. Eric Morrison, a Democrat representing Glasgow, said Dr. King was one of the most admirable and influential individuals in the nation’s history.
“But each year at this time I feel disappointment and frustration that we have essentially reduced Dr. King to a postage stamp version of himself,” he said. “He stood for so much more than the basic tenets of racial equality. We forget that he was a true radical. We forget his bleeding, consistent criticisms of the politics and systems still in place today, some of them stronger than ever, that perpetuate racial social economic and environmental injustice. We forget his utter disdain for the status quo.”
Long Neck Republican Rep. Ruth Briggs King opined on her visit to the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis and Dr. King’s commitment to the movement.
“He had stated that above all, he didn’t intend to be a civil rights leader, he was doing all of this because his very first calling was to be a preacher of the gospel,” she said. “Everything he did in his life was related to his firm commitment and a big focus on God and you can see that in the life he led and the legacy that he left behind.”
The House will reconvene for session Jan. 20 to consider legislation and hear Gov. John Carney’s State of the State Address. Virtual committees will meet on Tuesday and Wednesday.