By the numbers: A review of the 2019 legislative session

DOVER — Rep. Kim Williams, come on down and claim your prize!

At least by one metric, the Newport Democrat was the most active legislator of 2019, thanks to the 28 bills and resolutions she filed.

During the first leg of the 150th General Assembly, Rep. Williams topped the other 61 members of the General Assembly, introducing the largest portion of the 617 measures that have been presented as legislation since the 2018 election.

Those 617 proposals include major bills and ceremonial resolutions but not amendments (213 of those were filed between the start of session and June 30, the last regularly scheduled day).

The tally also counts measures that were stricken or replaced with similar but not identical substitutes.

Because each General Assembly consists of two separate parts, legislation still making its way through various parts of the process can be picked up where it was left when lawmakers return in January after six months off.

In total, the first leg of the 150th General Assembly saw the legislature meet 47 times, one of which was a special session. Lawmakers started the new General Assembly on Jan. 8 and exited for the year shortly after midnight July 1.

According to daily roll calls taken at the start of each legislative day, 21 of the General Assembly’s 62 members missed at least one day. Rep. Debra Heffernan, a Bellefonte Democrat, was absent five days, the most of anyone. Rep. Ruth Briggs King, a Georgetown Republican, missed three days.

Among the 617 measures introduced since December were bills to legalize marijuana, reinstate the death penalty, raise the minimum wage to $15 and create a permitting process to buy a gun. But while legislation like those four proposals consumed most of the headlines, much of what lawmakers debate every year receives little attention.

In addition to bipartisan (and frankly, not very exciting to most people) bills like one preventing a person who receives extra unemployment benefits through fraud from getting any more until he or she pays back the money, lawmakers passed dozens of resolutions honoring a person, an organization or a cause.

House Concurrent Resolution 42, for instance, designated May 9 as Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority day at Legislative Hall, while Senate Resolution 12 “reaffirms the sister-state relationship between the State of Delaware and Taiwan.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, neither resolution saw opposition on the floors of either chamber.

What sponsorship means
The number of bills introduced should not be used as the sole statistic to judge whether a lawmaker had a productive session. After all, not all bills are created equal — just compare the level of research and debate for the marijuana legalization proposal to many measures that make minor changes, such as a bill clarifying what federal financial institutions regulatory agencies and federally related transactions are.

Gov. Carney signs bills as the legislative session ended.

Sponsorship can also be a bit misleading. For instance, a senator can spend months researching and drafting a bill to raise a tax, but because such proposals must originate in the House, the senator does not get credit despite being the driving force.

There’s a difference between being a cosponsor and a prime sponsor as well. Many cosponsors had nothing to do with crafting the bill, although the prime sponsor — the main supporter in the chamber opposite that of the lawmaker who introduces the proposal — is often vital to the process.

Additionally, Democrats, who control both the Senate and the House of Representatives, tend to introduce more bills by virtue of their status as members of the majority party, particularly because the chairs of major committees typically receive a bump from working with state agencies and often filing bills initially proposed by the departments. The House Health & Human Development Committee, to name one, discussed 38 proposals this year, while the House Agriculture Committee saw only four bills.

Lawmakers have other duties besides drafting bills, of course, such as helping constituents and serving on committees.

Sen. Gerald Hocker, an Ocean View Republican, filed only six measures, for instance, but as the Senate minority leader, he can hardly be called a backbencher.

Despite the shortcomings, looking at how many bills and resolutions each legislator introduced and supported is a quick and dirty method that can offer clues as to how lawmakers spent their time this session.

Although the “what” of each measure — the substance — is even more important, statistics do offer snippets that help tell the story of the first leg of the 150th General Assembly.

By the numbers
Rep. Williams was surprised to hear she filed more proposals than any legislator so far this General Assembly.

Asked how any measures she thought she introduced in 2019, Rep. Williams guessed about 16.

I’m “very happy. I know I work hard but I didn’t realize how hard. That’s a lot,” she said upon being told it was actually 28.

Among those measures were bills to raise the tipped wage, eliminate the youth and training wages, provide more special education funding for some students and help victims of human trafficking have their criminal records expunged, although not all of those passed.

Asked what she saw as the most important proposal she sponsored this year, Rep. Williams had trouble picking just one, in fact citing half a dozen.

Tied for second in the number of bill and resolutions introduced are Senate President Pro Tempore David McBride, a New Castle Democrat, and Sen. Darius Brown, a Wilmington Democrat. Sen. Brown is one of 15 lawmakers — nearly a quarter of the legislature — newly elected in November.

Counting cosponsorships, no name appeared on bills and resolutions more frequently than Rep. Paul Baumbach’s. The Newark Democrat cosponsored 182 pieces of legislation and filed 10 proposals of his own.

Lawmakers generally, although not always, circulate bills for cosponsors among the General Assembly’s 62 members once the proposals are drafted, passing them around the building or over email to notify colleagues.

In many cases, the main sponsor will seek out a specific individual to be the prime sponsor in the other chamber.

As of Wednesday, 100 measures had been signed, while 128 were awaiting action from Gov. John Carney. One hundred forty-two resolutions, mostly ceremonial ones, did not need the governor’s signature.

Another 117 bills were still in committee. Sixty-five had been released from committee in one chamber but not voted on by that chamber, while 18 measures had passed either the House or the Senate but not yet been assigned to a committee in the other chamber.

Thirty-one bills were replaced with substitutes, 12 were stricken, one was laid on the table to potentially be debated later and three were defeated.

In the two-year 149th General Assembly, 1,608 measures were filed. Sen. Bryan Townsend, a Newark Democrat, led with 55 sponsorships, while Rep. Baumbach topped everyone with 230 combined sponsorships and cosponsorships.

Ever wondered how many bills your state senator introduced, or how many days your state representative missed? Look no further. Below is a listing of how many bills and resolutions each lawmaker filed, how many measures they cosponsored and how many days they were absent.

Baumbach 10, 182, 0
Bennett 10, 47, 1
Bentz 12, 52, 0
Bolden 11, 61, 1
Bonini 3, 24, 0
Brady 7, 158, 0
Briggs King 14, 128, 3
Brown 23, 44, 1
Bush 14, 41, 0
Carson 11, 39, 0
Chukwuocha 8, 74, 0
Cloutier 7, 81, 1
Collins 2, 38, 1
Cooke 2, 64, 0
Delcollo 13, 116, 0
Dorsey Walker 4, 71, 1
Dukes 6, 59, 0
Ennis 14, 116, 0
Gray 2, 60, 0
Griffith 11, 36, 2
Hansen 18, 143, 0
Heffernan 15, 82, 5
Hensley 5, 40, 0
Hocker 6, 92, 0
Jaques 17, 76, 0
K. Johnson 10, 71, 0
Q. Johnson 9, 42, 0
Kowalko 11, 109, 1
Lawson 8, 51, 2
Lockman 17, 72, 0
Longhurst 19, 34, 0
Lopez 4, 63, 1
Lynn 12, 65, 1
Matthews 11, 57, 1
McBride 23, 27, 0
McDowell 13, 36, 2
Minor-Brown 8, 37, 0
Mitchell 8, 90, 1
Morris 1, 29, 0
Osienski 10, 107, 0
Paradee 12, 108, 0
Pettyjohn 9, 102, 0
Poore 20, 76, 2
Postles 2, 15, 0
Ramone 6, 77, 0
Richardson 3, 53, 0
Schwartzkopf 17, 21, 2
Seigfried 7, 77, 0
Short 6, 86, 0
Shupe 4, 21, 0
Smith 6, 95, 0
Smyk 7, 33, 0
Sokola 10, 161, 0
Spiegelman 6, 80, 0
Sturgeon 8, 93, 2
Townsend 22, 99, 1
Vanderwende 2, 23, 0
Viola 4, 73, 1
Walsh 19, 70, 0
Williams 28, 65, 0
Wilson 6, 137, 0
Yearick 4, 80, 0

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