2005 Legislature wraps up business for 2005

What better way to get to know the local legislators than taking a look at what they worked for in the 143rd General Assembly?

While both Sen. George Howard Bunting (20th District) and Rep. Gerald Hocker (38th District) co-sponsored plenty of bills this session, here’s where they took the lead:

Bunting’s Senate Bill (SB) 22 passed early in the session — it enabled the Indian River School District (IRSD) to transfer up to 10 percent of the major capital improvement costs allotted to one project over to any other major cap project.

Gov. Ruth Ann Minner signed that bill in February.

SBs 57 and 122 addressed charter changes in Dagsboro and South Bethany, respectively. Both are headed for the governor’s desk.

SB 45 would set physical activity requirements for public school students – at least 30 minutes or one class period each day “of at least moderate intensity level and duration,” such that the students receive some actual health benefits.

The bill was laid on the table (LOT) in the Senate, with amendments, in late June.

In related news, the Bunting co-sponsored House Joint Resolution (HJR) 37 passed in late session — taking special notice of childhood obesity, it created a task force to examine physical activity and phys-ed policies and programs around the state.

SBs 81 and 95 both relate to veterans – the first would protect military discharge documents and the second would exempt portions of military pensions from income tax.

The first is through the Senate (via unanimous vote) and out of committee in the House; the second is out of Senate committee.

SB 121 is the Forestland Preservation Program.

With this legislation, the state would be able to purchase 10-year preservation easements (and then renew every five years, if participants want to keep going). The program is similar to the one currently run by the Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation.

The bill is headed for the governor’s desk.

SBs 203, 208, 209, 210 and 211 all relate to manufactured housing, ever one of Bunting’s primary areas of concern.

SB 203, headed for the governor’s desk, establishes a board to license installers. The other four remain in the Senate Agriculture Committee, where they landed in late June.

SB 208 would require landlords to advise new park tenants regarding rents and fees charged during the previous five years. SB 209 would establish a board to arbitrate disputes over rules, standards and rents.

SB 210 would require landlords to inform tenants 60 days before the sale or transfer of the community — and offer a tenants’ cooperative first right of refusal — with several significant caveats.

SB 211 would give tenants access to non-binding mediation following rent increases. If that didn’t work, the aggrieved parties could petition the Justice of the Peace (J.P.) Courts for an arbiter and go through a formal mediation process. If that didn’t work, the aggrieved parties could petition the Superior Court to review the arbiter’s findings of fact and conclusions of law.

The bill includes some caveats supporting a reasonable argument on the part of the landlords, as to why operational costs beyond their control may have driven rents above existing market conditions.

Hocker’s House Bill (HB) 188 clarifies that employees should never have to join or pay dues to labor organizations, or donate to charities, as a condition of (or condition of continued) employment.

Employers who try to impose those conditions would be guilty of a misdemeanor, and anyone injured as a result of such imposition, or the threat thereof, would be eligible for injunctive relief. The bill is headed for the governor’s desk.

HB 267 would provide easy resolution to civil action associated with shoplifting. Merchants could seek civil recovery without the need for filing criminal action against a defendant.

They could send notice to the defendant’s last known address, requesting (1) payment in the amount of $150, or retail value, whichever would be greater, of the items taken plus (2) the same again, if those items were not recovered in their original condition.

The merchants could take no further civil action if the defendants paid up within 20 days.

It’s headed for the governor’s desk.

House Resolution (HR) 32 established a Drinking Water Lead Level (DWLL) Task Force.

HB 143, which would add two geographical Sussex County Council seats (redistricted in 2007, filled in 2008) is still in Senate Executive Committee. The Hocker co-sponsored HB 170, which would add two at-large County Council seats in 2006, is right there beside it.