Gun bill delayed again in Senate

 

DOVER — For the second day in a row, the Senate pushed back a vote on a gun-control bill.

House Bill 325, which would increase the length of time for a background check before someone can purchase a firearm in Delaware, has been delayed to Tuesday. It was originally slated for two days ago but has now been moved twice. Both gun-control and gun-rights activists were in the chamber for the vote Thursday.

Currently, anyone seeking to buy a firearm in Delaware must undergo a background check through the FBI. While the vast majority of requests are approved, if no answer is given to the gun dealer within three days, he or she has permission to sell the gun.

The proposal would change the limit to 30 days.

Seven amendments filed Thursday would weaken the bill, although it appears Democrats have conceded a change to the wait time is necessary to garner the needed votes in the Senate.

Two amendments from Democratic senators would lower the wait to 25 and 20 days respectively, while a Republican-backed proposal would change it to seven.

If the bill passes with an amendment, it will have to return to the House, which it passed in April.

Clash over infrastructure trust fund

Republican senators are accusing members of the majority of violating state law and breaking promises after a vote on a bill that would give some Department of Transportation workers hazard pay.

Senate Bill 168 would provide hazardous-duty pay to DelDOT employees who work on roads, but a discussion on the proposal quickly turned into a dispute over state spending and funding mechanisms Thursday.

Several Republican senators said they believe the bill falls under a provision passed last year, which requires all measures that would spend Transportation Trust Fund money on anything but infrastructure projects, bond interest and DelDOT’s operating expenses receive support from three-fourths of the members of each chamber to pass.

“It’s disingenuous to taxpayers when you raise taxes on them with the promise that you’re going to use that money for specific things and then literally the very next year, you start spending that money on other stuff. Literally, the very next year!” said Sen. Colin Bonini, R-Dover, referring to increases in Division of Motor Vehicles fees approved in 2015 to raise money for road projects.

Democrats rejected the argument, saying the bill does not directly appropriate funds but only allows employees to receive hazard pay. The funds themselves will be distributed later as part of a separate process, main sponsor Sen. Bryan Townsend, D-Newark, said.

However, the hazard pay, which the Controller General’s Office estimated would cost about $2.5 million per year, would come from the trust fund, according to DelDOT.

A Senate attorney testified the bill did not need a three-fourths vote, much to the consternation of members of the minority party.

The bill passed 13-8. Sen. Catherine Cloutier, R-Arden, was the only Republican voting in favor of the proposal.

Afterward, Republican senators blasted Democrats, and Sen. Bonini said members of the two parties distrust one another.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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