[caption id="attachment_188142" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Many bills that interested and concerned the business community were on the docket for the 151st General Assembly. Five major initiatives did not pass by the time session ended on July 1. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS[/caption]
DOVER – While gun control and expanding abortion access were major priorities of the legislature in the final days of the 151st General Assembly, several bills that could change how business runs in Delaware were waiting for a vote by the time the session ended on June 30.Legislators will now have until January to revisit any bills that did not pass, and potentially rework them for introduction once when the gavel bangs for next session. As the start of the 152nd General Assembly following the fall elections, however, all hearings would have to be held again.Here’s a look at where five bills stand:HB 420: Amendment to PLUS processIntroduced by Dover Rep. Bill Bush (D) in May, House Bill 420would make the Preliminary Land Use Service (PLUS) review optional for projects in areas outlined as investment levels 1 or 2 in the 2020 Strategies for State Planning and Spending. Level 1 includes more urban areas, or those that have established infrastructure and services in the area, like Dover, Wilmington and Seaford. Level 2 covers land near more urban areas but with newer infrastructure and has planned infrastructure investments in the future.While the bill passed the House and was voted out of the Senate Elections & Government Affairs Committee, it failed to make it to the Senate for a floor vote by the end of the session.Late in the session, Bush introduced HB 420 as part of a pair of bills targeted to address issues raised by the Ready in 6 initiative, specifically improving permitting and fast-track project approval for employer prospects. The Delaware Business Roundtable, a non-partisan, volunteer consortium of state CEOs, has fiercely advocated for permit reform and was disappointed that the bill was not debated in the Senate.“The bill passed with only one no vote in the House, and it got on the Senate agenda. But instead of having a debate, the Senate decided to just go home,” Delaware Business Roundtable Executive Director Bob Perkins said. “Despite the lack of action on making Delaware a more attractive prospect for new and expanding businesses, we will continue to make the case for an expedited permit process.”HB 484: Temporary entrance permits Late in the session, Bush also filed a bill that expedited entrance permits for commercial and economic development projects in the last month of the legislative session. HB 484 was reported out of the House Economic Development, Banking, Insurance & Commerce Committee within five days after it was filed, but the bill did not make it to a House floor vote.Specifically, HB 484 required the Department of Transportation to issue a temporary permit to allow a developer to perform clearing and grading activities within five days of application for any “commercial or economic project” that files an erosion and sediment control permit.Developers who receive the permit will clean and grade the site at their own risk, and the state would not be held responsible for any harm that occurs to the developer “for any reason” – which includes denial of the project, modifications of the plan, and denial of permits.This is the second of two bills inspired by the Ready in 6 initiative. The Delaware State Chamber of Commercehas already highlighted HB 420 and HB 464 as priorities for the 2023 session, and plans to spend the next weeks educating members on how it would impact business.“HB 420 and HB 484 are good proposals, and we believe they will benefit the state, employers, and employees alike by bringing jobs to Delaware,” DSCC President Michael Quartana said. “We plan on taking the next six months to socialize members of the General Assembly about the details of these bills and what they aim to accomplish.”HB 435: Community Workforce Agreement ActRep. Larry Lambert (D-Claymont) filed a bill that seeks to require all public works projects that cost more than $3 million to require all contractors and subcontractors sign an agreement with unions to complete the job.HB 435arrived at a time when Delaware was preparing to spend roughly a billion dollars on infrastructure projects throughout the state. However, while the bill easily made it out of the Senate Labor Committee with a favorable vote it did not make it to a floor vote.There are roughly 42,000 workers represented by unions, or about 10.3% of the state’s employed population as of 2021, according to reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.There are roughly 12 unions with local offices based in Delaware, and about half are in trade labor. Combined, the unions of utility workers, machinists, ironworkers, laborers, pipefitters, and electricians include more than 4,200 members, according to Delaware Business Times records.Delaware Labor Secretary of Labor Karryl Hubbard, Transportation Secretary Nicole Majeski and Office of Management and Budget Director Cerron Cade testified during the House Labor Committee hearing last month, sharing concerns about how the bill would play out in real time.“It’s our estimation that we just don't have the union workforce within Delaware to meet that need. Essentially what that means is that we will be going to union halls here to get the workforce, and those organizations will have to look at members who live in Maryland and New Jersey, overstepping Delawareans who don’t belong to unions,” Cade said during the June 7 hearing.HB 262: Data ActRep. Krista Griffith’s much-debated Data Actwill have to wait for next year, as the bill did not make it out of the Senate Banking, Business & Insurance Committee in May.The Fairfax-area Democrat plans on reintroducing the bill next year. Griffith believes “it’s important to provide information to consumers about how their personal identifying information is being sold so they can be empowered to make decisions to protect their privacy,” according to the Delaware House Democratic Spokesman Drew Volturo.HB 262 would require the state Department of Justice to create a registry of data brokers, or businesses that collect or maintain data from at least 500 or more consumers or those who sell or license information to businesses. That registry would include companies’ privacy policies, opt-out information and more that Delawareans could search on their own. Companies can be held liable if they knowingly buy data that was fraudulently acquired.After concerns from the banking sector and technology trade associations, the Data Act was amended to state that financial institutions and financial firms that fall under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act would not be asked to register.HB 262 was also amended to eliminate private right of action in key circumstances, although Griffith noted it would apply if the brokered information is acquired for fraud, stalking or unlawful discrimination.HB 409: Sick and Safety LeaveDemocratic Glasgow Rep. Eric Morrison sought to introduce another paid leave bill late in the legislative session, with HB 409 geared to address short-term illnesses or needed time off in other situations.“This time could also be used for safety, for employees in a domestic violence situation, attending counseling, meeting with attorneys, filing police reports or counseling professionals in forming an escape plan from a home if needed,” Morrison said during a committee hearing on the bill in June.The Sick and Safety Leave bill requires all employers to provide employees with one hour of leave for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours per year. That would be carried over, and capped at 80 hours.HB 409 did not receive the votes needed to leave the House Economic Development, Banking, Insurance & Commerce Committee.