Gov. Carney signs several pieces of legislation into law Monday
DELAWARE – Monday, Governor John Carney signed several pieces of legislation into law.
House Bill 419
House Bill 419, sponsored by Representative Melissa Minor-Brown, tackles issues surrounding custody battles. It prohibits the knowing use of false statements about evidence, or false or misleading promises of leniency, during custodial interrogations of children under the age of 18.
Lawmakers say the bill comes as the number of false confessions recorded by the National Registry of Exonerations increases. Driving factors behind the bill also include recent science around adolescent brain development. To date, Delaware has not recorded a wrongful conviction case involving a false confession. However, lawmakers say wrongful convictions can often take decades to be revealed.
Illinois, Utah, and Oregon have passed similar legislation. Meanwhile, Colorado and California are also considering similar bills.
House Substitute 1 for House Bill 264 and House Bill 462
House Substitute 1 for House Bill 264, sponsored by Representative Krista Griffith, aims to provide further protections for victims of sexual abuse.
The bill permits victims to apply for a sexual violence protective order if they have a reasonable fear that the perpetrator will harm the victim in the future. Lawmakers say the protective order would serve as a civil remedy, whether or not the perpetrator has been charged with a crime, or if their actions were reported to law enforcement.
House Bill 462, also sponsored by Rep. Griffith, allows multidisciplinary team members to share information freely amongst themselves to better protect abused children. The bill establishes framework for parties in Family Civil Court proceedings to have access to records at child advocacy centers, related to forensic interviews. Lawmakers say the goal is to avoid retraumatizing children by having them go through multiple interviews under court proceedings.
House Bill 311
House Bill 311, sponsored by Rep. Griffith and State Senator Sarah McBride on the Senate side, aims to close gaps in Delaware’s equal accommodations laws.
“One of the most frequent forms of discrimination that Delawareans with disabilities face is the failure of a facility or an establishment to make reasonable accommodations so that that space is truly accessible,” said Sen. McBride. “Federal law bans discrimination based on disability, including the failure to make reasonable accommodations. But unfortunately, some are interpreting Delaware state law to not include that requirement for reasonable accommodations.”
Sen. McBride says while establishments are required, under federal law, to make reasonable accommodations for those living with disabilities, they’re not always held to the same standards as the federal regulations.
“What this meant was that if you faced discrimination in Delaware as a person with a disability because an establishment fails to provide reasonable accommodations, you couldn’t access the state level venues for justice,” said Sen. McBride. “Inaccessible justice is not justice. So, this legislation clarifies that Delaware’s equal accommodation laws include the requirement for establishments to provide reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities.”
Senate Substitute 1 for Senate Bill 240
Senate Substitute 1 for Senate Bill 240, sponsored by State Senator Laura Sturgeon, aims to protect tenants from deceptive renting practices.
The bill prohibits landlords from renting a unit that they know has a current bed bug infestation. It also requires landlords to notify prospective tenants if an adjacent unit is currently infested or being treat for bed bugs.
Plus, the legislation lays out the steps landlords must take after being notified about a bed bug infestation. Those steps include acknowledging the complaint, acquiring pest management services, notifying tenants of inspection and any upcoming extermination. Landlords must also maintain a written record of all complaints and control measures over two years.
If notice of a bed bug infestation is provided within 60 days after move in, or 30 days within a discovery of an infestation in another part of the building, the law requires landlords to handle the costs of handling the infestation. If the notice comes not within those time limits, the landlord is still responsible for setting up extermination or other remedies. However, the tenant could share in paying the cost.
Senate Bill 322
Senate Bill 322, sponsored by State Senator Jack Walsh, could bring peace of mind to moms and dads across Delaware, he says.
The legislation requires all new construction and renovations, with a permit value of at least $10,000, to include baby changing stations in both women’s and men’s restrooms. Sen. Walsh says federal facilities already hold this requirement. However, he was alarmed when his daughter notified him that she couldn’t find baby changing stations in many public facilities in the First State.
“In all fairness, a lot of men take care of their children as well. I just wanted to be all inclusive, and not leave anybody out,” said Sen. Walsh. “I don’t want the total impetus to be on the women to just change their babies’ diapers. As we know, a lot of men do, as well.”
Sen. Walsh says because the bill covers both men’s and women’s restrooms, transgender people can also rest assured that they will be have a place to change their babies in public. The bill requirements exclude places like industrial buildings, night clubs, or health facilities with restrooms intended for single use. The legislation will be enforced by the Delaware Department of Public Health.
Senate Substitute 1 for Senate Bill 151
Senate Substitute 1 for Senate Bill 151, sponsored by Sen. McBride, is geared toward creating clearer pathways for youth in or aging out of the foster care system to get on the road.
The two-year pilot program provides auto insurance funding for those children, and also helps them to take steps toward applying for an receiving a driver’s license. Sen. McBride says the cost of getting auto insurance or a driver’s license often stand in the way for youth in or aging out of the foster care system, as well as their foster parents.
“This could have a transformational impact on these young people being able to get on their feet, get covered, get a job, and become financially independent,” said Sen. McBride. “So often, those we entrust to care for them can’t shoulder the burden of paying for auto insurance for these young people.”
Sen. McBride adds that making the process easier now, could make lasting impacts on those children in the future.
“[Not having auto insurance or a driver’s license] creates significant challenges for them when they’re applying for jobs or trying to get to a job, whether that’s needing a driver’s license for the application process, or for people who live away from public transportation,” said Sen. McBride.