Lynn plans another attempt to repeal death penalty

DOVER — Rep. Sean Lynn, D-Dover, said he intends to suspend the rules when the legislative session resumes in order to bring the death penalty repeal bill to the House floor.

Senate Bill 40 passed the Senate in April but failed to make it out of the House Judiciary Committee in a 5-4 vote.

Rep. Lynn said in the aftermath of the May committee vote he was not finished with the bill and wanted to suspend the rules.

Against the wishes of House Democratic leadership, he now plans to do so “early in session.”

The second leg of the 148th General Assembly starts Jan. 12.

Sean Lynn

Sean Lynn

Suspending the rules requires support from a majority of members, or 21 representatives. Lawmakers can discuss and vote only on the merits of suspending the rules, not the content of the bill.

If the motion is successful, a bill can be brought from committee to the chamber floor, to be discussed and voted on when the sponsor is ready.

Suspending the rules happens regularly near the end of session to speed bills through, but doing so to bring a failed proposal from committee to the full chamber is another matter entirely.

Acknowledging the move might not have enough votes, even if the bill itself does, Rep. Lynn reiterated his plans.

“It can’t be an issue that continues to stay out there and never come to a vote,” said the Dover Democrat.

Speaker of the House Peter Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, has noted there is virtually no precedent for what Rep. Lynn intends to do. He believes the motion would face backlash from lawmakers reluctant to break with normal procedures.

Rep. Schwartzkopf is personally opposed to repeal but says he disagrees with Rep. Lynn’s plan because of how unorthodox it would be. As for Rep. Lynn, he said he has not spoken to the speaker on this issue in months and respects his opinion but stands by his intentions.

Even if the motion is not successful, Rep. Lynn believes the death penalty could be overturned by the courts at the state or federal level. He noted the Delaware Supreme Court recently ordered a new trial in the case of a man sentenced to death. That is the third Delaware death row case changed on appeal due to prosecutorial improprieties since 2014, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

“It’s clear the continued refrain of, ‘Delaware doesn’t make mistakes,’ is just continually held to be false and baseless over and over again,” Rep. Lynn said.

Notes

A couple other points of note as the second leg of the legislative session draws near:

Rep. David Bentz, D-Newark, will take over in the 18th Representative District after winning a special election. He replaces Michael Barbieri, who resigned in August to become head of the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health.

Rep. Bentz is quite familiar with the goings-on around Legislative Hall: He served as Mr. Barbieri’s legislative aide for the past three years.

Rep. Bentz will take up some of Mr. Barbieri’s old committee seats, serving as vice chairman of the Health and Human Development Committee and a member of the Education, Energy, Labor and Natural Resources committees.

Special plaques hanging on the main staircase in the capitol commemorate lawmakers with 20, 30 or 40 years in office. So far, former Rep. Robert Gilligan is the only one to reach four decades. That will change in 2016.

Sens. Harris McDowell and Robert Marshall, both Wilmington Democrats, will each complete their 40th year in the legislature. Mr. Gilligan, a Newport Democrat and former House speaker who ended his legislative career in 2012, will soon have company.

Eleven senators will be up for election this fall. Those representing the 1st, 5th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 19th and 20th will have their fates decided by voters. All 41 representatives will face re-election as well.

The prospect of an election could lead to the General Assembly shying away from bold changes, such as a tax increase, more so than in an off year.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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