Vote on gun background check bill pushed back a day

DOVER — The Senate pushed to today a vote that could extend the length of time for a background check before someone can purchase a gun in Delaware. The bill in question was on the agenda for Wednesday, but after a lengthy discussion on a proposal moving the start of school back, the bill was bumped to Thursday.

The measure, which would require individuals buying a gun wait longer if a background check is not completed within three days, passed the House in April.

The main floor action came on the bill changing the start of the school year, with senators voting 11-10 to move the first day of school for all Delaware districts to after Labor Day.

According to a study from the Virginia Hospitality & Travel Association, Virginia would lose $369 million if its schools were not required to begin after Labor Day.

Main bill sponsor Sen. Gerald Hocker, R-Ocean View, cited the report in his arguments, but other lawmakers doubted the benefits and questioned whether school would now stretch several weeks longer into June.

Despite the apprehension, the proposal passed, with all Republicans and two Democrats voting in favor. It now moves on to the House.

Election fireworks

Wednesday also saw a partisan dispute involving lawmakers and Election Commissioner Elaine Manlove.

In a surprise announcement that has little recent precedent, General Assembly Republicans announced shortly before a committee hearing on Ms. Manlove’s reappointment they would not be supporting her.

“Simply put, the elected Republican members of the General Assembly have no confidence in Commissioner Manlove’s ability to fairly and impartially fulfill her duties, and we feel that this is one position where both parties should have confidence,” the Republican members of both the Senate and House wrote in a letter to Gov. Markell. “With a new governor coming into office next year, we feel as if this is a great opportunity for us as a state to wait until 2017 for a new commissioner to be nominated, and the sense of fairness and impartiality restored.”

During the Senate Executive Committee hearing, Senate Republicans questioned Ms. Manlove for about 20 minutes, asking about the efficiency of the state’s campaign finance reporting system and the impartiality of the Department of Elections.

Although the Senate voted to confirm her, every Republican member of the chamber either voted against or avoided taking a stand when it came time for a vote by the entire chamber. There was no discussion on the subject of her reappointment in the full chamber.

Gov. Markell, in a letter responding to Republicans, defended Ms. Manlove and pointed to changes made during her nine years in charge of the department.

The state is among the best in the nation at registering voters at the Division of Motor Vehicles, has a voter-friendly online system and has saved money through steps taken under Ms. Manlove, he wrote.

He also noted the letter was submitted just one day before Ms. Manlove’s reappointment was scheduled to be voted on, although Republicans said they had been talking with the governor’s staff and Democratic lawmakers on the issue for weeks.

“I want to reassure you that I take your concerns very seriously and that I remain happy to talk with you or the commissioner about the circumstances giving rise to your concerns,” the governor wrote. “But at this late hour and after considering the achievements above and Commissioner Manlove’s years of service in this office, I am not willing to withdraw my nomination at this time.”

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