Our fine legislators have been very busy filing new bills over the last month and I have fallen woefully behind in profiling them, so I am combining them by subject matter in order to catch up. The subjects are Crime, Environment, Marijuana, Elections, Republican Culture Wars, Education, Taxes, Labor, Economy, Insurance, Healthcare and Good Government. Yes, they have been busy.
Seventh up, Economic and Labor bills. We’ve got a lot of bills here because this category is sort of a catch all category for any bill dealing with money, work, workplace practices, business, business opportunities, regulations, etc.
House Bill 297 is the Agricultural Opportunities Act. It would require the Department of Agriculture to take certain actions to include socially disadvantaged farmers in the agricultural decision-making process in this State and provide outreach to socially disadvantaged farmers to make them aware of programs to assist them.
It would establish an agricultural training program in the Department to encourage and assist a socially disadvantaged farmer, military veteran farmer, or beginning farmer in the ownership or operation of agricultural land in this State.
It will require the Department to collaborate with the Cooperative Extension programs at the Delaware State University and the University of Delaware. It would establish an agricultural land lease program in the Department to identify land owned by this State that is suitable for agricultural use and give priority for leases to socially disadvantaged farmers, military veteran farmers, and beginning farmers.
The bill will require the Department, in collaboration with the Cooperative Extension programs at the Delaware State University and the University of Delaware, to develop a farmer incubator program that provides a military veteran farmer and beginning farmer with the opportunity to receive training on a plot of land at an incubator site operated by the Department, identify the initial and annual costs of and a location for the program, and report the Department’s findings.
This bill was placed in and then released from the Agricultural Committee, and then was sent to the Appropriations Committee, which is usually a good sign the bill is on place to get to the floor for a vote. But then it was released from Appropriations and sent back to Agricultural, perhaps for some amending. So we will see.
|House Bill 297 Sponsors||Yes Votes||No Votes|
|Dorsey Walker, Baumbach, K.Johnson, Minor-Brown, Morrison|
|Pinkney, Ennis, Hansen|
|Current Status: House Agriculture Committee|
Senate Bill 243 creates the Baby Bond Account Fund. Parents can apply for a $2000 account for a child born on or after January 1, 2022 into a household with an annual household income that does not exceed 200% of the federal poverty level.
The Plans Management Board under the Treasurer’s Office is to appropriate sufficient funds to fund the fund (say that three times fast) and then to invest and otherwise administer the money in the individual accounts in the Fund. Once the child turns 18 years old, he or she may request a distribution from the account for certain qualified expenses. The money in the individual’s account is excluded from the individual’s federal adjusted gross income for purposes of state taxation.
|Senate Bill 243 Sponsors||Yes Votes||No Votes|
|Bolden, Dorsey Walker, K.Johnson|
|Current Status: Senate Elections & Government Affairs 3/10/22|
House Bill 266 clarifies that the definition of employees who receive gratuities also includes employees that receive tips, and that these employees earn more than 50% of their income from tips or gratuities.
This bill clarifies that employers may continue to pay a tipped minimum wage to primary direct service employees under this bill.
Employers cannot direct employees to engage in tip pooling in Delaware—tip pooling arrangements must be controlled by the employees themselves.
It also clarifies that tips automatically added to a bill or added to credit card charges are to be treated like tips or gratuity and must be paid by the employer directly to the employee at the next pay period as opposed to being held by the employer waiting to receive payment from the credit card company and that the employer may not deduct service fees from the employees tips or gratuities.
|House Bill 266 Sponsors||Yes Votes||No Votes|
|K.Williams, Kowalko, Lambert, Lynn, Mitchell, Morrison, Osienski|
|Current Status: House Economic Everything 6/30/21|
House Bill 331 is the Lemonade Stand Bill. Stands operated by children that serve or sell lemonade or other beverages on a temporary, occasional basis are to be exempt from State, county, and municipal regulations and licensing fees that might otherwise apply.
Specifically, this bill defines a “stand operated by a child” as one that operates on a temporary, occasional basis, serves or sells lemonade or other beverages to others, and is located on private property with the permission of the private property owner.
The stand operated by a child are to be exempt from State regulations on food establishments and soft drinks and other beverages, requirements related to child labor laws, and retail license requirements.
Additionally, this bill prohibits a county or municipality from enacting a law, ordinance, or regulation that prohibits, regulates, requires a license or permit for, or imposes a fee, charge, or surcharge on, a stand operated by a child.
This bill requires a two thirds majority vote since it affects muncipal charters, but it will likely pass unanimously, so that is not a concern. The sponsorship below is bipartisan, because well, who wants a five year old to have to apply for a license to run a lemonade stand?
|House Bill 331 Sponsors||Yes Votes||No Votes|
|Bennett, Bush, Baumbach, Carson, Heffernan, Minor-Brown, K.Williams, Collins, Ramone, M.Smith|
|Paradee, Ennis, Lockman, Sokola, Hocker, Lawson, Wilson|
|Current Status: House Economic Everything Committee 3/8/22|
Senate Bill 244 clarifies what happens regarding unemployment benefits during labor disputes. Under current Delaware law, if a labor dispute constitutes a lockout, employees are immediately eligible for unemployment benefits. Further, in labor disputes other than a lockout, employees must wait two weeks before collecting unemployment benefits.
This bill mandates that the 2-week disqualification period does not apply if either: (1) The labor dispute is caused by the failure or refusal of the employer to comply with an agreement or contract between the employer and the individual, including a collective bargaining agreement with a union representing the individual, or a State or federal law pertaining to hours, wages, or other conditions of work and/or (2) The employer hires a permanent replacement worker for the individual’s position.
|Senate Bill 244 Sponsors||Yes Votes||No Votes|
|Osienski, Bolden, Kowalko|
|Current Status: Senate Labor Committee 3/10/22|
House Bill 354 amends the Delaware Whistleblower Protection Act to preclude an employer from reporting or threatening to report an employee’s citizenship or immigration status or a family members citizenship or immigration status to a federal, state, or local agency, in response to the employee engaging in a protected activity under Delaware’s Whistleblower Act. A simple but necessary bill to prevent such abhorrent behavior.
|House Bill 354 Sponsors||Yes Votes||No Votes|
|Morrison, Baumbach, Griffith, Kowalko, Wilson-Anton|
|Current Status: Out of Committee 4/12/22|
House Bill 349 allows a landlord to offer the tenant an option to pay a recurring fee in lieu of a security deposit.
This option enables tenants who cannot afford a security deposit to find a rental. This bill also requires landlords choosing to provide the option to one tenant to provide the option to all new tenants.
The Landlord who offers a tenant the option to pay a fee in lieu of a security deposit must notify the tenant of their option to terminate the agreement to pay the recurring fee at any time and to pay a security deposit instead. Electing to pay the recurring fee does not eliminate, release, or limit the tenant’s liability for damages under the lease.
The recurring fee must be of equivalent amount and payable at the time each rent payment is due.
|House Bill 349 Sponsors||Yes Votes||No Votes|
|Lambert, Dorsey Walker, Minor-Brown, Heffernan, K.Johnson, Kowalko, Morrison, Wilson-Anton|
|S.McBride, Ennis, Gay, Poore, Townsend|
|Current Status: House Housing & Community Affairs 3/15/22|
House Bill 364 provides a registration system for American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters.
At the present time, individuals and organizations who are not certified to provide interpreting services are presenting themselves as acceptable/qualified interpreters without consequence.
This is fraud and it is a horrible exploitation of a vulnerable segment of our society. It harms the interests of people who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Deaf-Blind by depriving them of the right to meaningful access and involvement in legal or medical settings, as well as other activities in the community.
It also harms the interests of people who are not Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or Deaf-Blind by denying them access to effective communication with people who use ASL by providing a lesser quality service than what they believe they are purchasing.
A State registration system will help ensure that only qualified individuals provide this vital and necessary service.
This bill imposes a fee, so that means it needs a 3/5th majority of the vote to pass in each House.
|House Bill 364 Sponsors||Yes Votes||No Votes|
|Heffernan, Bolden, Griffith, Longhurst, Mitchell, Osienski, Briggs King|
|Current Status: House Labor Committee 3/31/22|
Senate Bill 259 increases the amount of funds deposited into the Investor Protection Fund from money collected by the Investor Protection Unit from $100,000 to $550,000.
In addition, it increases the retention cap of the Investor Protection Fund from $300,000 to $750,000. Lastly, it expands the permissible uses of the Investor Protection Fund to include expenses of the Fraud and Consumer Protection Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) related to consumer protection and financial fraud.
The Investor Protection Fund receives revenues from fees collected by the Unit, as well as any settlement recoveries of the Unit. It is largely used to pay the non-personnel expenses of DOJ’s Investor Protection Unit, which is a part of DOJ’s Fraud and Consumer Protection Division.
|Senate Bill 259 Sponsors||Yes Votes||No Votes|
|Gay, Ennis, Sokola|
|Griffith, K.Johnson, Mitchell, Osienski, Briggs King|
|Current Status: Senate Judiciary Committee 4/12/22|
Senate Bill 260 increases the maximum amount of money the Department of Justice can keep in the Consumer Protection Fund at the end of each fiscal year from $3 million to $10 million.
The Consumer Protection Fund covers a substantial portion of the costs and expenses to run the Department of Justice’s Fraud and Consumer Protection Division, which serves all Delawareans, handles hundreds of consumer complaints every year, and is continually taking on more cases on behalf of Delawareans who have been victims of fraud and deceptive business practices.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, a period of dramatically increased scams against Delaware’s most vulnerable populations, including our seniors, the Fraud and Consumer Protection Division has been on the front lines. The Division brings money into the Consumer Protection Fund by investigating and enforcing Delaware’s consumer protection and financial fraud laws, and the amounts obtained, often through settlements, can be large but are unpredictable.
Despite a significant expansion of the work and jurisdiction of the Fraud and Consumer Protection Division, the Consumer Protection Fund retention cap has not been increased since 2014. Increasing the retention cap from $3 million to $10 million will promote greater stability in funding the Division’s operations even during periods of volatility in the amount of money the Division brings in through its investigation and enforcement work, and will reduce the risk that the Division needs to seek funding for its critical operations out of General Fund appropriations. Increasing the retention cap will not affect ASF spending authorization for the Consumer Protection Fund, which will remain subject to the existing appropriations process.
|Senate Bill 260 Sponsors||Yes Votes||No Votes|
|Gay, Ennis, Sokola|
|Griffith, K.Johnson, Mitchell, Osienski, Briggs King|
|Current Status: Senate Judiciary Committee 4/11/22|