The House joined the Senate in passing the second leg of a constitutional amendment that will end the mandatory tradition of extending legislative business past midnight on the final day of session each year. Senate Bill 39 passed unanimously and the Constitution is now automatically amended, since the Senate and House already passed this bill in the last session of the General Assembly.
Constitutional amendments require a 2/3 majority vote in each chamber and must be approved by two consecutive General Assemblies. The governor’s signature is not required on Constitutional amendments.
The Delaware Constitution spells out that the regular session of the General Assembly begins each calendar year on the second Tuesday in January and closes on the last day of June. To preserve its privilege to call the Legislature back into session later in the year if needed, the General Assembly must meet at midnight on June 30 and vote to commence a special session on July 1.
This interpretation of the Constitution has resulted in marathon legislative sessions through the night on June 30, sometimes until after dawn. Even during the pandemic, the House and Senate met virtually in brief session shortly before midnight on June 30, entering into special session on July 1.
Senate Bill 39 and last year’s House Bill 411 would amend the Delaware Constitution to change the time for the end of the legislative session from the last day of June (11:59 p.m. on June 30) to 5 p.m. on June 30. This would enable the House and Senate to reconvene in special session immediately after 5 p.m. (rather than after midnight) and still preserve their privilege to meet later in the year.
The legislative day on June 30 typically sees lawmakers working to tie up loose ends and secure final passage of key bills before the six-month recess. In an even-numbered year, business is fast-paced at the close of session, since legislation that does not pass before the session day concludes expires with the convening of a new General Assembly after Election Day.
|Senate Bill 39 – No More Late Nights on June 30 Amendment||Currrent Status – Senate Passed 20-0-1. House Passed 38-0-3. Constitution Amended|
|House Sponsors – Schwartzkopf Longhurst Minor-Brown // Ramone||Senate Sponsors – Sokola Townsend Lockman // Hocker Pettyjohn|
|House Yes Votes – Baumbach Bolden Bush Carson Chukwuocha Cooke Dorsey-Walker Griffith Harris Johnson Lambert Longhurst Lynn Matthews Minor-Brown Moore Morrison Neal Osienski Parker-Selby Phillips Schwartzkopf Williams Wilson-Anton // Briggs King Collins Dukes Gray Hilovsky Morris Postles Ramone Short Shupe Smith Spiegelman Vanderwende Yearick||Senate Yes Votes – Brown Gay Hansen Hoffner Huxtable Lockman Mantzavinos McBride Paradee Pinkney Poore Sokola Sturgeon Townsend Walsh // Hocker Lawson Pettyjohn Richardon Wilson|
|House No Votes – Heffernan, Romer, Hensely||Senate No Votes – None|
|House Absents or Not Voting –||Senate Absent or Not Voting – Buckson|
“This legislation is designed to strike a balance between concluding the final day of legislative session at a reasonable hour while preserving our ability to work overtime on behalf of the people of Delaware if the need arises,” said Senate President Pro Tempore David Sokola. “But, ultimately, my hope is that this amendment results in far fewer late nights and reduced risk for the people whose jobs require that they head home only after we have concluded our deliberations.”
“For years, we have heard the concerns about these late-night sessions from the public and our fellow legislators alike. While the practice is rooted in the traditions of Legislative Hall, it is far from an ideal way to do the people’s business,” said House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf. “These marathon session days do not promote transparency in government, and they also result in legislators, staff and members of the public driving home late at night after a very long day, which is just not safe. By changing the time for the end of the regular session, we will be promoting transparency and ending a tradition that no longer makes good sense. This June 30th will be bittersweet in some ways because it is the last of its kind, but it’s the right decision.”
“Having both chambers end session past midnight on June 30th/July 1st is an archaic practice that is dangerous for the public, staff, and members of the General Assembly,” said Senate Republican Leader Gerald Hocker and Senate Republican Whip Brian Pettyjohn in a statement. “The late-night hours hinder transparency and discourage public participation. This common sense change is long overdue.”
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