General Assembly wraps up

DOVER — Lawmakers concluded the final regularly scheduled day of the 150th General Assembly Tuesday.

As is typical, the chambers gaveled in and stayed past midnight for procedural reasons. Unlike normal, however, lawmakers conducted no business other than ceremonial tributes.

The Senate went in at 10:30 to honor several retiring members and staff, while the House of Representatives began at 11:45. At 12, the chambers entered a special session, enabling them to reconvene at some point before January if need be.

There were no last-minute surprises Tuesday, either in the form of legislation or retirements.

Pete Schwartzkopf

“This has been in my career the least stressful June 30 that I’ve had,” House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, a Rehoboth Beach Democrat, said Tuesday night.

Though June 30 is normally a whirlwind of activity, this year was quite different. The state capitol has been closed since March, with lawmakers handling business virtually since the coronavirus outbreak.

Legislators met in person only in person for only nine of the 43 scheduled days this year due to COVID. After taking nearly three months off, lawmakers approved virtual meetings in late May and subsequently conducted business remotely.

The legislature concentrated chiefly on the budget bills in June, with the state facing a big decrease in revenues due to coronavirus. Gov. John Carney signed the budget into law earlier in the day Tuesday, the final day of a new fiscal year.

“We have done our best to keep the wheels of government turning,” House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, a Bear Democrat, said.

Controversial bills on subjects like the death penalty, gun control, marijuana legalization and more did not see the expected debate this spring as a result of the virus.

A new General Assembly is set to convene in January. Whether the chambers are able to meet in person and conduct business as normal can only be known with time.