Lawmakers get early start on legislative proposals

DOVER — Among the legislation filed last week are bills to raise the school dropout age, end the estate tax and require all motorcyclists to wear helmets.

Although the General Assembly does not convene until Jan. 10, seven bills were submitted Thursday in a House prefile. Several of the measures return from the past legislative session.

House Bill 11 would allow drug felons to receive public funds through the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Delaware is one of 10 states that bans drug offenders from TANF funding, although other ex-felons are still eligible for the funds.

TANF money goes to low-income families with children and requires recipients to work for 30 hours per week.

“We as legislators have an obligation to continuously review past practices and policies and determine if they are working as intended,” main sponsor Rep. David Bentz, D-Newark, said in a statement. “The vast majority of people who are going to prison will be returning home at some point. If we want them to be able to re-adjust to society, we need to have a support system for them.

“These are people who don’t have jobs yet and rely on their families to provide food and shelter in the early going. Our goal should be to prevent recidivism and give people the best possible chance to lead productive lives when released.”

A similar bill passed the House unanimously last year but was not voted on by the Senate.

A bipartisan bill would raise the school dropout age from 16 to 17 in an effort to encourage students to graduate it.

“The stats are absolutely alarming as far as those that will live the rest of their life in poverty … versus doing something with their life,” main sponsor Rep. Tim Dukes, R-Laurel, said.

Rep. Dukes said he was approached by a constituent who had worked in education for decades and wanted to boost graduation numbers.

Gov.-elect John Carney last month said he hopes to raise the dropout age to 18.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 15 states allow students to leave school at 16, 11 at 17 and 24 at 18.

A returning proposal from Rep. Sean Lynn, D-Dover, would force motorcyclists to wear helmets. Currently, they are required to have helmets but not mandated to wear them. Most state governments impose some kind of helmet law, with 19 obligating riders to wear helmets.

2015’s version of the bill died in committee.

Legislation banning dangerous dog laws targeted at specific breeds was also filed last week. The bill is nearly identical to a version approved by the House in June, but it never went to the Senate, requires dogs be found as a threat to the public based on actions rather than their breed.

Some cities and towns across the country, including Bridgeville, have passed laws declaring pit bulls dangerous.

The legislation comes from Rep. Charles Potter, D-Wilmington.

Rep. Kim Williams, D-Newport, re-filed a bill expanding special education, which currently is not available until fourth grade. Her proposal would cover children starting in kindergarten with special services, such as more teachers and smaller classes.

“Early intervention’s the key, and we all know that,” Rep. Williams said in 2015.

The bill is unchanged from a 2015 proposal, which carried a price tag of $11 million for the state and $5 million for the districts.

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