Lawmakers want to require stores to take cash

DOVER — Lawmakers may not be returning Tuesday as scheduled, but this past week still saw plenty of impactful proposals filed.

Due to the coronavirus, the General Assembly has canceled sessions Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. More days could still be called off as well, although no decisions beyond this week have been made yet.

Among the proposals introduced in the past few days are dueling bills to require stores to accept cash.

Where the two measures differ is primarily in the penalties: One would make any violation a fine of up to $10,000 apiece, while the other would have the fine range from $1,000 to $2,500 depending on whether it’s a first or repeated offense. The second bill would also give consumers greater ability to sue companies that refuse to take cash.

While few if any stores in Delaware do not accept cash, technology has resulted in some establishments taking only credit cards or other electronic methods of payment. Amazon, for instance, initially planned to have cashless stores before backing off that last year, and Firefly Music Festival has gone cashless for the past few years.

Several states and cities have required stores to take cash, in large part because of the impact cashless businesses have on the millions of Americans who do not have bank accounts. Such individuals are mostly poor and are disproportionately members of a minority group.

According to a 2018 Pew Research Center survey, 18 percent of American adults make most or all of their purchases with cash in a given week, while 29 percent rely solely on electronic methods of payment.

“Technology can bring about exciting changes as long they are accessible to everyone, including working-class Delawareans,” Senate President Pro Tempore David McBride, a New Castle Democrat who is sponsoring one of the bills, said in a statement.

“Over 8 million U.S. households do not have bank accounts and many people cannot obtain credit or debit cards. For them, cashless stores make navigating an increasingly unequal economy that much harder. By requiring stores to maintain the option of cash payments, we can avoid discrimination and keep these doors open to all customers.”

Among the other bills filed are proposals dealing with the death penalty. One would reinstate it, while another would amend the constitution to outlaw capital punishment.

The Delaware Supreme Court struck down the state’s capital punishment statute in August 2016, seven months after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled a similar law in Florida was unconstitutional.

Delaware’s system required a jury to provide non-binding recommendations on sentencing death for convicted murderers, with a judge making the final decision. Unanimity was needed to determine if there were any aggravating circumstances but not whether they outweighed mitigating factors.

The ruling came after several attempts to undo capital punishment through the legislature failed. Some lawmakers unsuccessfully tried to pass a new death penalty statute following the ruling, but their efforts stalled.

It’s unclear whether they have the support to impose a new death penalty law, but any vote figures to be close.

Statutorily banning executions, meanwhile, is almost certain to fail, given it would require a two-thirds supermajority.

After saying for years he supported capital punishment, Gov. John Carney changed his tune after the court ruling. He has since said he would sign a bill that allows for individuals who kill law enforcement to be executed.

Also introduced last week were bills to require gun dealers to post suicide prevention materials and clarify that tips belong to the employee and a boss cannot mandate they be pooled.