House OKs drug overdose review panel legislation

DOVER — The House of Representatives Thursday passed legislation creating a drug overdose review committee, requiring school districts record board meetings and eliminating the Kent County comptroller.

The voting on the bills took less than five minutes each, with no votes against. The chamber held a proposal that would raise allowable campaign contributions.

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Delaware Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, chats with Rep. Larry Mitchell, D-Elsmere. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

House Bill 247 would increase the limit on contributions for state House candidates from $3,000 to $5,000. The maximum amount that can be given to Senate candidates is currently $5,000.

The legislation would also allow political parties to give $30,000 instead of $20,000 and would create additional reporting periods, requiring those running for office to file financial information with the state on a quarterly basis. The Federal Election Commission uses the quarterly system.

Sponsored by Rep. Earl Jaques, D-Glasgow, the measure is a revision and consolidation of three earlier bills. The number of changes and the fact it has yet to be heard on the floor indicate a tough road.

The legislation currently faces opposition from both the left and the right. Minority Leader Rep. Daniel Short, R-Seaford, said the House Republican caucus wants to see some changes. While two amendments have already been filed, more could be coming to create a version acceptable to a majority of the General Assembly.

Some good government groups like Common Cause, a liberal watchdog organization, have opposed the legislation. Common Cause Delaware believes it would allow the wealthy to play an undue role in state politics.

“It seems like we’re moving in the wrong direction,” Claire Snyder-Hall, lobbyist with Common Cause Delaware, said of the bill.

On less controversial news, representatives voted unanimously to establish the Drug Overdose Fatality Review Commission. The panel is similar to the Child Death, Near Death and Stillbirth Commission.

The commission will analyze deaths due to opioids and heroin and provide suggestions on changes the state could make to prevent future fatal overdoses.

The Senate approved it without opposition in January.

The Kent County comptroller bill, from Rep. Sean Lynn, D-Dover, also passed without any trouble. It will now go to the Senate.

If it passes there and is signed into law, the last remaining county comptroller’s office would cease to exist. The idea comes from Kent officials, including current comptroller Georgette Williams.

A bipartisan measure mandating all school districts record and publish audio of board of directors meetings faced no opposition either Thursday. The recordings would have to be posted online within seven days.

The state Board of Education is already required to put audio of its meetings online.

Legislation filed Thursday included a bill that would create beer garden licenses. The bill identifies a beer garden as a “defined, outdoor establishment open to the public for at least five consecutive months but no more than nine total months per year. Licenses would cost $2,000.

Democrats are heavily backing a bill concerning laborers on state projects. Under the auspices of the act, 30 percent of workers on construction funded by the state would have to come from the representative district where the project is located. Five percent of the workers would also have to be veterans.

The proposal has no Republican support.

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