The 149th General Assembly in facts and figures

Democratic Sen. Bryan Townsend. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — In the now-concluded 149th General Assembly, no one introduced more legislation than Sen. Bryan Townsend. The Newark Democrat filed 55 bills and resolutions, far more than any other lawmaker.

This legislative session closed July 1 after 90 regularly scheduled days, two special-session days and one “extraordinary-session” day. Lawmakers gaveled in on Jan. 10, 2017, and met 48 times over the ensuing six months. For the second leg of the 149th General Assembly, they began business Jan. 9 and exited the state capitol around 8:30 a.m. on the first day of this month.

A total of 1,054 measures, ranging from unsuccessful legislation to legalize marijuana to a resolution recognizing autism, were introduced in that time span. The tally does not include amendments or substitutes, which are altered versions of existing bills and are almost always filed by the original sponsor. It does count bills that were stricken, as well as simple resolutions honoring visitors or recognizing a cause.

Of those 1,054 proposals, 692 passed. From there, 336 have been signed, one was vetoed and 221 did not need the governor’s approval. The remaining 134 have not yet been signed by Gov. John Carney.

The number of bills introduced should not be used as the sole statistic to judge whether a lawmaker had a productive session. For one thing, not all bills are created. Take House Bill 414, a minor charter change for Blades which passed both chambers with no opposition less than six weeks after introduction.

Meanwhile, considerable energy was spent on House Bill 110, the marijuana legalization measure, although it did not receive a floor vote until June 27 of this year.

Sponsorship can also be a bit misleading. For instance, a senator can spend months researching and drafting a bill to raise a tax, but because such proposals must originate in the House, the senator does not get credit despite being the driving force.

There’s a difference between being a cosponsor and a prime sponsor as well. Many cosponsors had nothing to do with crafting the bill, although the prime sponsor — the main supporter in the chamber opposite that of the lawmaker who introduces the proposal — is often vital to the process.

Additionally, Democrats, who control both the Senate and the House of Representatives, tend to introduce more bills, largely by virtue of their status as members of the majority party. The chairs of major committees also typically receive a bump from working with the corresponding state agencies and often filing bills initially proposed by the departments.

Despite the shortcomings, looking at how many bills and resolutions each legislator introduced and supported is a quick and dirty method that can offer clues as to how lawmakers spent their time this session, although the “what” of each measure — the substance — can be even more important. Statistics do offer snippets that help tell the story of the 149th General Assembly.

The two splits of this session were largely similar in many statistical regards, with 547 bills and resolutions filed in the first leg and 507 in the second. Three hundred fourteen passed in 2017, while 378 passed this year, with the greater number likely stemming from lawmakers pushing to ensure their bills were voted on before they expired after session ended in the second leg.

Asked to guess how many measures he introduced in 2017 and 2018, Sen. Townsend picked 35.

“No wonder I feel exhausted,” he joked after being told the number.

Sen. Townsend is used to the top spot: He introduced more bills and resolutions in 2015 (23) and 2017 (34) than any other legislator and came in second across the entire two-year 148th General Assembly, with 45 measures. Then Sen. Bethany Hall-Long, a Middletown Democrat who is now lieutenant governor, surpassed his total by one for 2015 and 2016 combined.

This session, his bills included successful legislation to reimburse primary care doctors at higher rates, require insurance to cover fertility services and codify abortion law. He also pushed a measure to ban dozens of “assault weapons,” although that failed to advance.

Sen. Townsend gave a nod to legislative staffers, calling them indispensable in helping lawmakers research and even write bills.

Second in this metric of measures filed is House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, a Rehoboth Beach Democrat who introduced 42 bills and resolutions, ranging from the House rules to the governor’s recommended budget to a failed attempt to raise the age to buy a rifle.

Sen. Harris McDowell, a Wilmington Democrat who co-chairs the influential Joint Finance Committee, filed 33, as did Rep. Earl Jaques, a Glasgow Democrat. They’re followed by Senate President Pro Tempore David McBride, a New Castle Democrat, and Rep. Ruth Briggs King, a Georgetown Republican. Both introduced 32 proposals.

No one co-sponsored more legislation than Rep. Dave Wilson. The Bridgeville Republican introduced three resolutions and one bill but signed on as a secondary supporter of 209 pieces of legislation.

Combined, Rep. Paul Baumbach, a Democrat from Newark, led the way with 230 sponsorships or cosponsorships. Rep. Helene Keeley, a Wilmington Democrat, recorded 220.

Reps. Bobby Outten, a Harrington Republican, and Harvey Kenton, a Milford Republican, each introduced only two measures. (Technically, then Sen. Hall-Long introduced the fewest, with zero, but she held office for only three legislative days in 2017 before being sworn in as lieutenant governor.)

Sen. Cathy Cloutier, an Arden Republican, missed 11 days — nearly 12 percent of the legislative period — this session, partly due to pneumonia that sent her to the hospital last month. Rep. Melanie George Smith, a Bear Democrat, was absent nine times, and Rep. Andria Bennett, a Democrat from Dover, missed eight days.

Twenty-five lawmakers were not present on at least one day, with seven registering as absent for at least five daily attendance roll calls.

Staff writer Matt Bittle can be reached at 741-8250 or mbittle@newszap.com. Follow @MatthewCBittle on Twitter.

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