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Crossover deadline, other accountability reforms sought

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(The Center Square) — Limits on when legislative proposals can be considered by Delaware’s House of Representatives and Senate is part of a broader package of accountability reforms being proposed.

Filed by members of the Republican minority caucus, a June 20 “crossover” date would establish when new bills cannot be moved from the House to the Senate for consideration. Backers of the changes say it would prevent legislative leaders from pushing through bills without debate in the final days of session.

“The Delaware General Assembly currently has no restriction on when bills can be introduced,” said Rep. Lyndon Yearick, R-Dover, the bill’s primary sponsor and deputy whip in the House. “Implementing this change would prevent a complicated or contentious bill from being fast-tracked through the Legislature in the session’s last few days, or hours, without proper public notice or committee consideration.”

The annual state budget, grants-in-aid act, bond and capital improvements act would be excluded from the proposed deadline, according to the bill’s sponsors. The proposed rules could be waived by a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate, they said.

“I’m OK with the suspension of rules. I am not OK with a simple majority vote for a suspension,” said state Sen. Eric Buckson, R-Dover South, another sponsor of the bill. “I think it has to cross a higher threshold.”

Backers of the plan point out that 26 other state legislatures have a crossover deadline limiting the movement of new bills ahead of the end of legislative sessions.

“We’re not on the leading edge of this reform,” Buckson said. “Most states already have a crossover day and have used it for years. If there is an argument against it, I have yet to hear it.”

The measure is one of several accountability proposals offered by Delaware’s GOP minority as the House and Senate prepare to convene for another session.

Another proposal filed by Republicans would require the House and Senate to hold a three-fifths majority to suspend the rules ahead of considering bills and record votes in committees cast by each lawmaker.

Rep. Jeff Spiegelman, R-Clayton, a chief sponsor of the resolution, said committees are where major decisions on bills are made and the deliberative process can be “easily short-circuited” with a simple vote to waive the rules.

“Both chambers can frustrate these protections by simply choosing not to follow the rules,” he said. “Worse, these are simple majority voice votes, where the individual votes are not recorded, and no one is held accountable.”

Buckson, who will sponsor the resolution in the Senate, said the proposed rule changes would “modestly raise the bar on these actions and require legislators to publicly take responsibility for their decisions when they chose to eliminate these safeguards.”

“Cutting the corners to eliminate public notice and citizen input on legislation is not an act that should be taken lightly or easily done,” he said.

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