Where do civil liberties stand after the first half of the 151st General Assembly’s legislative session? Here’s a post-legislative session update on some of our priority bills and other important bills that impact civil liberties in Delaware.

Bills We Supported


In October 2020, the ACLU of Delaware and Community Legal Aid Society, Inc. reached a settlement with Governor John Carney in Delawareans for Educational Opportunity v. Carney. The agreement required the General Assembly to pass legislation that would bring structural changes to the way Delaware funds education for low-income students, English learners, and students with disabilities — groups who are historically underfunded and left with an inadequate education.

As a result of our litigation, two bills were introduced in 2021 to address these requirements. We’re thrilled to say that both bills sailed through the General Assembly, and as of June 30, one has already been signed into law by Governor John Carney.

*HB 86: K-3 Funding for Students with Special Education Needs
Passed! Ready for Governor Action

House Bill 86 provides increased funding for kindergarten through third grade students identified as eligible for basic special education services and will increase the unit count funding for K-3 Basic Special Education students by the 2023-2024 school year.

*SB 56: Codifying the Opportunity Fund for Low-Income and English Learner Students
Passed! Signed by Governor Carney

Senate Bill 56 codifies the Opportunity Fund: additional funding for public schools to support the needs of students that are low-income and English learner students. SB 56 meets a key requirement of last year's settlement. SB 56 requires that Opportunity Funds increase at least $60 million annually by the 2024-25 school year and increase proportionately to student growth every subsequent year.

Smart Justice

Our Smart Justice efforts this year focused on increasing police accountability and transparency through LEOBOR, use of force, and body-worn camera reforms, and expanding access to second chances through Clean Slate legislation.

When this year’s legislative session closed on June 30th, five of our priority bills had passed the General Assembly, including both Clean Slate bills, which will give a true second chance to 290,000 people living with Delaware records.

*SB 147: Clearly Defining Use of Force Justification
Passed! Ready for Governor Action

Senate Bill 147 creates a requirement that when using force, both non-lethal and lethal, an officer must “reasonably believe” that they are in danger in order to justify their use of force. 

*SB 148: Giving AG Power to Investigate Non-Lethal Use of Force
Passed! Ready for Governor Action

Senate Bill 148 expands the Attorney General’s ability to investigate non-lethal use of force incidents and requires that race data is tracked and reported in use of force incidents.

*SB 149: Amending the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights
Senate Ready List

Senate Bill 149 removes the confidentiality clause from the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBOR) and makes police disciplinary records public. This bill also enables the creation of community oversight boards at a state, county, or municipal level with the power to hear and decide police disciplinary matters, gather data about misconduct, provide reports of trends in discipline, make recommendations regarding policy/training, and issue subpoenas.

Support SB 149: Sign the PeTition

*HB 195: Regulating Governance of Body-worn Cameras
Passed! Ready for Governor Action

House Bill 195 requires certain police officers and other employees of the Department of Corrections to use body-worn cameras to record interactions with members of the public. This bill would also require the Council on Police Training to create regulations for body-worn camera use to ensure consistent use in 2022.

*SB 111: Automating Expungement Through the Clean Slate Act
Passed! Ready for Governor Action

The Clean Slate Act creates greater equity, consistency, and cost-effectiveness through a streamlined, automatic expungement process that applies to all records eligible for mandatory expungement.

*SB 112: Expanding Eligibility for Mandatory Expungement
Passed! Ready for Governor Action

SB 112 will expand eligibility for mandatory expungement of adult and juvenile records, so that more people will have access to automatic expungement through SB 111.

*HB 37: Public Health Emergency Credit 
House Appropriations Committee

HB 37 would create public health emergency credits that will result in the orderly release of people whose sentences will be expiring soon. Unfortunately, HB 37 stalled in the House Appropriations Committee and is expected to not pass this session.

HB 244: Fines and Fees Reform 
House Appropriations Committee

House Bill 244 would end the suspension of drivers licenses due to failure to pay a fine or a fee, limit the court’s ability to impose fines and fees on children and their parent or guardian, and institute a reporting requirement and study group examining fines and fees issues in Delaware. The ACLU of Delaware is supportive of the Campaign to End Debtors Prisons effort to bring needed reform to Delaware’s fines and fees system, which was recently ranked 5th worst in the nation by the National Center for Access to Justice.

HB 150: Marijuana Legalization
House Ready List

The Delaware Marijuana Control Act would make recreational cannabis legal for adults 21 and older. The ACLU of Delaware is advocating for this legislation as part of the Delaware Cannabis Policy Coalition.

Economic and Housing Justice

Too often, Delawareans are faced with situations of eviction that threaten their homes, their families, and their well-being. Even more often, people facing eviction are left to navigate that legal hurdle by themselves, without official counsel or legal assistance in a system that’s designed to protect landlords.

That’s why we made the right to counsel for eviction defense a priority this year — because we need to level the playing field and fill the representation gap between the 86% of landlords who have representation from attorneys or agents in court and only 2% of tenants who have representation.

Right to counsel didn’t pass this year, but the fight will continue in 2022.

*SB 101: Giving Delaware Tenants the Right to Counsel for Eviction Defense
House Housing & Community Affairs Committee

SB 101 would implement a statewide right to legal counsel for eviction defense for covered tenants. 

Support SB 101: Sign the Petition

SB 1: Paid Family & Medical Leave
Senate Health & Social Services Committee

SB 1 creates a Paid Family & Medical Leave Program for workers across the state of Delaware. The ACLU of Delaware is advocating for this legislation as part of the Delaware Cares Coalition.
LGBTQ Rights

We work to ensure that people of all backgrounds belong everywhere and can live openly and authentically without discrimination, harassment, or violence — that’s why we support this effort to make Delaware the first state to prohibit LGBTQ+ and disability discrimination.

HB 199: Constitutional Amendment to Prohibit LGBTQ+ and Disability Discrimination  
House Administration Committee

HB 199 would prohibit discrimination towards LGBTQ+ Delawareans and Delawareans with disabilities. Delaware could become the first in the country to protect the rights for LGBTQ+ persons in its state constitution.

Reproductive Freedom

We can’t say it enough: reproductive rights are human rights. We were thrilled that this update to remove outdated criminalizing language from the Delaware Code passed the General Assembly this year!

HB 31: Repealing the Code that Criminalizes Abortion
Passed! Ready for Governor Action

HB 31 repeals provisions in the Delaware Code that criminalize abortion.

Voting Rights

This year we formed Delaware's first statewide coalition of voting rights organizations and advocates. Under the umbrella of the Delaware Voting Rights Coalition, we worked to expand access to voting for all eligible Delawareans.

Two of our priority voting rights bills are stalled until next year, but our coalition stands ready to fight to ensure that these bills pass in 2022.

HB 25: Same Day Voter Registration
House Administration Committee

HS 1 for HB 25 enables eligible persons to register to vote and cast a ballot at the same time through Election Day.

Support HB 25: Sign the Petition

*HB 75: Constitutional Amendment to Allow No-Excuse Absentee Voting
Laid On Table

House Bill 75 aims to permanently guarantee the right to no-excuse absentee voting by amending the Delaware State Constitution and providing the General Assembly with power to regulate the circumstances, rules, and procedures for absentee voting.

Support HB 75: Sign the Petition

SB 5: Automatic Voter Registration
Passed! Ready for Governor Action

SB 5 creates an automatic voter registration system at the Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles and allows the Department of Elections to implement automatic voter registration at other state agencies.

Bills We Opposed

SB 7: Increasing the Use of Secured Cash Bail
Ready for Governor Action 

SS1 for SB 7 increases the use of secured cash bail by making bail mandatory for a large number of offenses. ACLU-DE strongly opposed this bill and will continue to monitor its implementation and fight for fair policies in the criminal legal system.

SB 155: FOIA Request Denials
Senate Ready List

SB 155 - SA 1 allows for public bodies to deny Freedom of Information Access (FOIA) requests that the public body deems “unreasonably broad, unduly burdensome, intended to disrupt the essential functions of the public body, or is abusive.” SB 155 contradicts the purpose and spirit of FOIA, which is to promote open government and transparency, and to allow the public to monitor the performance and decisions that are made by governmental bodies. 

HB 58: Panhandling

HB 58 proposed to move cases involving panhandling violations to the Court of Common
Pleas, purportedly to make more “social services” available to homeless defendants.
However, this vulnerable segment of the Delaware population would be best served by the
repeal of the Statute as it still effectively criminalizes panhandling and is plainly
Unconstitutional. As a result of ACLU-DE and community partner activism, this bill was stricken. ACLU-DE hopes to continue efforts to repeal this statue in the future.

*Note: Legislation with an asterisk indicates legislation we worked on directly. We are proud to be among a long list of Delaware organizations who fight on these important issues daily, and some pieces of legislation included in this wrap-up list were championed by those community partners and ally organizations.