DOVER — The Delaware General Assembly breezed through its final in-person meeting of the normal 2021 legislative session Wednesday.
While lawmakers are planning to meet again in the fall to conduct redistricting, June 30 marks the last day of regular session every year. Typically, the General Assembly doesn’t return until January, and even when the chambers do meet later this year, they’re not expected to handle anything outside of redrawing district borders.
The legislature was set to virtually return late Wednesday night because of a quirk in state law. At midnight every year, as June turns into July, legislators enter into a special session.
This year, they finished all remaining business earlier in the day at the state capitol.
The Senate passed the final piece of the three “money” bills, critical spending measures legislators must approve every year. The operating and capital bond budgets were passed before Wednesday, enabling the governor to sign them in a formal ceremony prior to lawmakers meeting in Legislative Hall for the final day.
The grant-in-aid bill, which appropriates money to hundreds of nonprofits across the state, was passed Tuesday by the House of Representatives but did not get to the Senate until the following day. Senators gave the stamp of approval to the measure Wednesday, unanimously sending it to Gov. John Carney.
“This legislation will provide much-needed support to our nonprofit community, which was dealt a serious fundraising blow by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Sen. Trey Paradee, a Dover Democrat who co-chairs the committee that crafted the budget, said in a statement. “From fire companies and paramedic services to shelters, substance abuse services and community arts organizations, these organizations deliver invaluable services to our most vulnerable neighbors and give us an unbelievable return on our investment. I’m grateful to my colleagues on the Joint Finance Committee for allocating this year’s grants-in-aid in a responsible manner that will benefit thousands of Delaware families.”
The allocation totals $63.2 million and includes funding for museums, senior centers, fire companies and myriad other nonprofits and community service groups, as well as a few initiatives approved by the General Assembly.
The capital bond bill for the upcoming fiscal year contains $1.35 billion in spending, with the operating budget coming in at $4.77 billion, plus a separate $221 million for one-time items.
“This is a sustainable budget that makes investments where they’re needed most, including in our public schools statewide, and prepares us for the future,” Gov. Carney said in a statement. “We’re also making our largest-ever infrastructure investments, which will create good jobs and attract economic investment across our state. And we worked with legislators to set aside additional reserves to make sure we’re again prepared next time we face a crisis. I want to thank the chairs and members of the Joint Finance and Bond Bill committees for their thoughtful work on this budget in such an unusual year.”
The General Assembly on Wednesday also approved legislation mandating that police interrogations be recorded and establishing Juneteenth as a permanent state holiday.