Sussex County Delaware

Delaware Legislative
Week in Review
Week in Review, March 28, 2003 ...

House OKs Measure to
Restrict Smoking Ban
House Sets Fines for False Alarms ...

The Delaware House of Representatives passed legislation on Tuesday, March 25, 2003, that seeks to hold owners of faulty fire alarms accountable for the false alarms sounded by their equipment.

According to Delaware State Fire Marshall Willard Preston, electronic alarm systems account for nearly 26 percent of all firefighter dispatches in Delaware. Ninety-nine percent of these alarms are false.

State Rep. Biff Lee, a volunteer firefighter in Laurel for more than 30 years, is the prime sponsor of House Bill 57. "[The Bill] gives you three freebies, [then] it has graduated civil penalties for a fourth false alarm, a fifth false alarm and six or more," Rep. Lee said.

H.B. 57 would fine the owners of an alarm system that sends more than three false alarms per year. The fourth false alarm would draw a $100 fine, a fifth false alarm $200, and any erroneous alarm after that $250.

Such an approach has proven effective elsewhere, including the City of Dover, which has an ordinance similar to House Bill 57. "They had a similar [false alarm response] rate, around 25 percent of alarms," Mr. Preston said. "After several years of having their alarm bill in place, their rate now is around 12 percent."

The bill passed the House on a unanimous vote. The measure now moves onto the Senate for consideration. If enacted this year, the bill would become effective at the start of 2004.

Bill Would Examine Pregnancy Deaths ...

House Bill 67, which seeks to establish a Maternal Mortality Review Commission, passed the House of Representatives on Thursday (March 27). The permanent commission would investigate pregnancy-related deaths and make recommendations to prevent such deaths in the future. The commission would also consider the deaths of women who die within 12 months of the end of their pregnancies.

Rep. Pam Maier, the prime sponsor of the bill, says the medical community pushed for the measure. "Our local (chapter) of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) came to me saying that they thought this was an area Delaware should delve into."

Other states already have such commissions. State Rep. Maier says this group would be similar to a commission that reviews child deaths in the First State. She says that commission has produced helpful results and she believes this body would be just as successful. Since the members serve without compensation, there would be virtually no cost to taxpayers.

The commission would issue a report to the governor and the General Assembly at the start of every year. The eight-member commission would include the state medical examiner and five medical specialists.

The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.

Bills Released from Committee ...
  • House Bill 69

    -- Under current law, hunters using muzzle-loading, black-powder rifles to pursue deer must use an "all lead spherical or conical projectile." H.B. 69 would allow the use of projectiles containing materials other than lead, which have proven more effective and humane. Surrounding states, such as Maryland, already allow the use of such projectiles.

  • House Bill 27 -- Sponsored by State Rep. Nancy Wagner, this bill would create the new offense of "cyberstalking." The new crime would apply to any person who intentionally engages in a course of conduct (by e-mail, computer bulletin board, telephone, etc.) which would cause reasonable people to fear physical injury to themselves or others. Cyberstalking would be a Class F Felony, carrying a maximum prison sentence of three years. If a death threat or a threat of serious physical injury was part of the crime, the offense would rise to a Class D Felony, carrying a top sentence of eight years.
Bills Acted on in House ...
  • HCR 11 -- Sponsored by State House Majority Leader Wayne Smith, on behalf of all House members, this resolution encourages the Department of Education to promote a voluntary program in the state's public schools supporting our servicemen and women serving overseas. The program includes both collecting "wish list" items and writing letters to be included in care packages sent to the troops by the USO. The program is set to conclude by May 6, when the USO will pick up all the material for distribution. Rep. Smith credits House staff member Martha B. Sturtevant with inspiring the idea. (Status: HCR 11 was passed by both the House and Senate. As a concurrent resolution, the measure takes effect without the signature of the governor.)

  • HB 88 with HA 1 & 3 -- This bill deals with the licensure, certification, and professional development of teachers. Among other things, the legislation would give the Department of Education (DOE) the authority to create, implement, and pilot educator evaluation systems. The bill also seeks transfer regulatory authority for teacher preparation, recruitment and retention from the Professional Standards Board to DOE. (Status: Passed the House and Senate and is heading to the governor for her signature.)

  • SB 15 with SA 1 & 2 and HA 1 -- This bill limits the use and justification of corporal punishment by public school teachers, administrators and school employees. Exceptions to the bill include the use of reasonable and necessary force in order to maintain order and control in the classroom. (Status: Passed the House, but was amended, so it goes back to the Senate for additional consideration.)

  • HB 65 -- This bill seeks to provide several fundamental rights and protections to victims and witnesses with cognitive disabilities. Similar protections are already provided to children. State Rep. Pam Maier is the prime sponsor of the bill, which would apply to any person with a developmental disability that substantially impairs his or her cognitive abilities. Such disabilities include, but are not limited to, delirium, dementia, and those with mental retardation. (Status: Passed by the House)

  • HR 16 -- This resolution extends the report date for the committee studying the feasibility of instituting sports betting in Delaware. The committee will now report to the Delaware General Assembly by May 30, 2003. The group is studying the possibility of allowing limited sports betting at Delaware's three slot machine venues. (Status: Passed)

  • HB 64 -- This bill requires those who are mandated to set aside handicapped parking spaces to erect and maintain signage that complies with federal or state requirements. The penalty for a first offense is a $50.00 fine and $100 for a subsequent violation. (Status: Passed the House, heading to the Senate for consideration.)

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