The ACLU of Delaware held a press conference and lobby day outside of legislative hall in Dover on Wednesday to push for a series of progressive new laws as the legislative session nears its end.
The speakers included Kathleen MacRae of the ACLU-DE, Eugene Young of the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League and Kate Parker of the Delaware Center for Justice, or DCJ.
The purpose of the press conference and lobby day was to urge lawmakers to act on a series of measures before this session ends. The bills discussed at the event dealt with bail reform, adult expungement, school-level funding transparency and paid family leave.
“It’s imperative for us, as advocates and community members, to understand how what we’re doing today impacts so many,” said Young in his speech at the event. “So many. Not just now, but 10 years from now, 20 years from now, 30 years from now. This has a lasting effect on our state and the people within it.”
Young expressed his belief that it is just as important to voice support for legislation as well as voicing opposition.
HB 442 was one of the bills that stuck out to Young, and it would mandate that a first-time juvenile offender that was involved with misdemeanor level crimes could complete the civil citation program. Upon successful completion, the offender would have any arrest or prosecution expunged from their record. Young believes that everyone makes mistakes, and that work should be done to move youth past their indiscretions.
In her speech, Parker discussed SB 221 and SB 222. The bills focus on preventive detention of those who are accused of crimes. The legislation would seek to defend due process rights (which would include the right to counsel and a quick trial), expand the list of circumstances in which a person could be detained and make it less dependent on whether a person would be detained based on whether bail is affordable for them.
“We talk a lot about mass incarceration. We talk a lot about incarceration, in general,” said Parker in her speech. “We talk a lot about imprisonment.”
Parker went on to say discussion of those who have yet to prove their innocence being stuck in “small cages” because of their lack of money to afford bail is non-existent. According to Parker, this is being done every day in Delaware. She urged the crowd to let their senators know how they feel regarding the legislation.
Among the bills that MacRae mentioned in her speech was SB 197, which would grant expungement eligibility to those who were convicted of the possession, use or consumption of marijuana prior to Delaware’s decriminalization of those offenses. To qualify for expungement, the offense must be the only criminal conviction on the candidate’s record. The legislation has made it through the Senate and is currently in the House. MacRae believes there is a very strong chance that SB 197 will make it to the governor.
Among those in the crowd were Julie Price and Elizabeth Lockman. Price is a member of the League of Women Voters, and she has testified for legislation on behalf of the organization and as an individual.
“I’m here for the issues in general, especially the issues that affect the number of people that are in prison in Delaware,” said Price. “We have a lot of people in prison who have not been convicted of any crime just because they don’t have the money to pay bail.”
Price planned on giving public comment on the legislation regarding expungement of marijuana conviction and voting issues. When it comes to voting issues, Price said that it is important for people to have time prior to Election Day to vote in case they don’t have time to make it out to the polls on Election Day.
Lockman was at the event as a board member of the ACLU-DE and is director of the Parent Advocacy Council for Education. She is currently running for state senate in Delaware’s third district.
“The one I’m the most interested in, as an educator, is SB 172,” Lockman said. “It establishes uniformed reporting of school finances. It’ll help us get a clear picture of how resources are being allocated and spent.”
At the end of her speech, MacRae discussed the possibility of receiving a proposal for a new voting system in Delaware.
“Our current voting system is a computerized system that’s 22 years old—that can no longer be updated in terms of software, and we really need new voting systems,” said MacRae in her speech.
According to Delaware Law Weekly, SB 221 was voted on earlier this week and received 11 votes, below the 14 needed for passage. This legislative session ends on June 30.