Vote Tracker

SB1 – The Tenant Right to Counsel Bill is back

Last year, the House defeated Senate Bill 101(S), a bill that would have granted a right to legal counsel for all tenants facing eviction. That bill passed the Senate 13-7-1, and the vote breakdown is below:

Yes VotesNo Votes Absent/Not Voting
Brown Ennis Gay Hansen Lockman McBride Paradee Pinkney Poore Sokola Sturgeon Townsend WalshMantzavinos // Bonini Lawson Lopez Pettyjohn Richardson WilsonHocker

On the last day of the session, indeed in the early morning of July 1, the House defeated the bill 16-23-2. As you can see, as with Senator Spiros Mantzavinos above, some Democrats seem to be anti-tenant.

Yes VotesNo VotesAbsent/Not Voting
Baumbach Bentz Dorsey-Walker Freel Griffith Heffernan Johnson Kowalko Lambert Longhurst Minor-Brown Mitchell Moore Morrison Williams Wilson-AntonBennett Bolden Bush Carson Chukwuocha Cooke Matthews Osienski Schwartzkopf // Briggs King Collins Dukes Gray Morris Postles Ramone Short Shupe Smith Spiegelman Vandewende YearickHensley Lynn (C)

Two no votes have been replaced. Bennett has been replaced by Kerri Evelyn Harris, is very likely to be a yes vote. Smyk has been replaced by Democat Stell Parker Selby, who may also be a yes vote now, given that she is a sponsor of new legislation that we will discuss below.

Sean Lynn was apparently conflicted out, I suppose because he either represents landlords or tenants in his private law practice. Hopefully that conflict can be absolved because he could be a yes vote. These three votes, assuming everyone votes the same, brings us to 19-20-1. So we need two more votes for this bill to pass.

Speaker Schwartzkopf opposes this bill, and many of the remaining Democratic no votes were just doing his bidding at the very end of session. Does Ed Osienski still oppose this bill? How about Nnamdi and Sean Matthews?

Answering that question will determine whether this session’s Senate Bill 1 will be successful.

Like its predecessor, Senate Bill 1, introduced by Senator Bryan Townsend, creates a right to representation for low-income renters in eviction actions. In Delaware, 86% of landlords have legal representation in court eviction proceedings, but only 2% of renters have representation. 

Here is what this bill does:

  1. Creates a right to representation for low-income renters facing eviction whose household income is lower than 200% of federal poverty guidelines.
  2. Requires landlords to provide notice of the right to representation at certain designated intervals of a tenancy and in eviction proceedings.
  3. Exempts small landlords who own three or fewer units and are not represented by a lawyer or agent.
  4. Creates an Eviction Diversion Program designed to help resolve payment or other issues after a landlord files for eviction, which will be run by the Justice of the Peace (“JP”) Court.
  5. Enables the Attorney General to contract with appropriate legal service organizations to provide representation in proceedings covered by the bill. 
  6. Places coordination of the program with Delaware Volunteer Legal Services, which will manage the contracts and work with community organizations to do outreach regarding the right to representation.
Senate Bill 1 – Tenant Right to CounselCurrrent Status – Senate Housing & Land Use 1/19/23
House SponsorsMinor-Brown, Lambert, Baumbach, Dorsey Walker, Griffith, Harris, Longhurst, Moore, Morrison, Phillips, Romer, Williams, Wilson-AntonSenate SponsorsTownsend, Hoffner, Pinkney, Gay, Huxtable, Lockman, McBride, Poore, Sokola, Sturgeon, Walsh
House Yes VotesSenate Yes Votes
House No VotesSenate No Votes
House Absents or Not VotingSenate Absent or Not Voting

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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