Legislators gear up for action in remaining 10 days of session

DOVER — The clock is ticking: Just 10 regularly scheduled legislative days remain in the first leg of the 150th General Assembly.

Lawmakers will continue meeting on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays through the end of June before departing in the early morning hours of July 1 (potentially before 1 a.m., which would be a welcome break from the past four years).

The Joint Committee on Capital Improvement is scheduled to begin meeting Thursday to finalize the bond bill, while the operating budget already has been completed.

The panel that sets the state’s revenue projections will convene June 19 for the last time before the fiscal year ends June 30. At that meeting, members will approve the final revenue forecast, which is used for the state’s spending bills.

Of course, plenty of issues other than spending will be debated over the next three weeks. Potential topics of debate include marijuana legalization, criminal justice reform and a higher minimum wage.

Prostitution bills
The Senate on Thursday sent to Gov. John Carney a bill that prevents the state from prosecuting anyone under 18 for prostitution. The measure was introduced in March along with a bill that provides a clean slate for human trafficking victims. That measure passed the General Assembly in May.

Both proposals were recommended by the Delaware Human Trafficking Interagency Coordinating Council.

Senate Bill 60, which initially passed the Senate unanimously, was sent back to the chamber after the House on Tuesday attached an amendment stating that whenever law enforcement has reason to believe a minor has had sex for money, police must inform the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families.

The change was part of a compromise after Rep. Jeff Spiegelman, R-Clayton, introduced an amendment that would have allowed prosecution of a minor who willingly engaged in prostitution.

The measure was passed 19-1 by the Senate Wednesday, with Sen. Colin Bonini, R-Dover, being the sole dissenter. He objected to the bill not containing any provisions for repeat offenders, questioning if the state is giving a free pass to someone who might be arrested on multiple occasions for selling his or her body.

House Bill 102 was approved by both chambers with no votes in opposition. The proposal allows a person who is arrested or convicted of any crime except a violent felony to obtain a pardon or expungement if he or she was in that position “as a direct result of being a victim of human trafficking.”

“The scourge of human trafficking seeps into our communities, destroying lives every single day,” Rep. Kim Williams, D-Newport, said in a statement.

“We have to take action to help victims of these terrible traumas, and HB 102 and SB 60 lead the mission, helping survivors find the pathway to rehabilitation.

“Trafficking is a significant issue that has a longstanding impact on victims, so we should be doing what we can to ensure they have the wraparound services to be successful, and break down barriers that stand in their way. I’m so pleased that these bills have passed the General Assembly.”

According to Polaris Project, there were about 42,300 potential human trafficking cases in the United States over a 10-year period from 2007 to 2016. The Human Trafficking Institute reported there was just one active human trafficking case in Delaware in 2018.

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