The Delaware Constitution requires that General Assembly candidates reside in the representative or senatorial districts they wish to represent for a full year before Election Day. However, there is no requirement that once elected, the legislator maintain a fulltime residence in that district – only that they meet the yearlong residency requirement before the following election if they are running for another term.
Rep. Paul Baumbach introduced House Bill 77 to correct that oversight. It is a constitutional amendment that would require legislators to continuously reside in their districts for the entirety of their terms. It passed both houses unanimously last year, so this is the second leg, and the House last week passed it unanimously.
The measure includes a once-a-decade exception for sitting legislators who change their residence to live within the boundaries of newly drawn districts through the redistricting process. Redistricting is a federally required process where legislative districts are redrawn based on the latest decennial census. Lines can move enough that sitting members are effectively moved out of their current districts. This provision would provide an exception for members who move out of their current district into the new one to meet the one-year residency requirement. Otherwise, if they move out of their district before their term ends, the lawmaker would be “deemed to have resigned the office.”
HB 77 now heads to the Senate for consideration. If the Senate passes the measure, the amendment will be incorporated into the Delaware Constitution. No signature from the governor is required.
|House Bill 77– Legislator Residency Constitutional Amendment||Currrent Status – House Administration 3/7/23|
|House Sponsors – Baumbach, Williams, Morrison, Osienski, Wilson-Anton // Hensley, Ramone, Short, Smith, Yearick||Senate Sponsors – Gay, Hansen, Huxtable, Lockman, Pinkney, Sokola, Sturgeon // Wilson, Lawson|
|House Yes Votes – Baumbach Bolden Bush Carson Chukwuocha Cooke Dorsey-Walker Griffith Harris Heffernan Johnson Lambert Longhurst Lynn Matthews Minor-Brown Moore Morrison Osienski Phillips Romer Schwartzkopf Williams Wilson-Anton // Briggs King Collins Dukes Gray Hensley Hilovsky Morris Postles Ramone Short Shupe Smith Spiegelman Vanderwende Yearick||Senate Yes Votes –|
|House No Votes – None||Senate No Votes –|
|House Absents or Not Voting – Neal, Park Selby||Senate Absent or Not Voting –|
“Delawareans elect people from the communities in which they live to represent them and their interests in Dover. The entire idea is that by living in those communities, representatives and senators can better raise issues that affect those areas and advocate for solutions,” said Rep. Baumbach. “It should be a basic tenet that members live in their districts for the entire time they’re in office, which is why we are enshrining it in the Delaware Constitution.”
“This issue, unlike many that we tackle in Legislative Hall, is extremely straightforward. Elected officials should live in the district they were elected to represent,” said Sen. Kyle Evans Gay, the HB 77’s lead Senate sponsor. “I look forward to swiftly passing HB 77 in the Senate and sending it to Governor Carney’s desk.”