2022 Legislative Recap: Civil Liberties Wins and the Fight Ahead

As always, this year’s legislative session was a whirlwind of wins, stalled progress, and losses. With the legislative session behind us, we’re gearing up for the non-legislative fights remaining in the second half of 2022 and planning for the 2023 legislative session. 

In the midst of a troubled national political and judicial landscape, Delaware made historic legislative progress this year – and we couldn’t have done it without the support of civil liberties advocates like you.

What We Accomplished

Abortion Access

Delaware passed two bills to expand abortion access by allowing more medical professionals to provide abortion care. Delaware is likely to see an increase in patients traveling from other states to receive abortion care, so expanding access to that care is vital.

  • HB 320, the bill to allow advanced practice clinicians (APCs) to provide medication abortions, passed both chambers and was signed by Governor Carney.
  • HB 455, the bill to allow APCs to provide procedural abortions, passed both chambers and was signed by Governor Carney.

Smart Justice

Fines and fees reform is a major component of legal system reform. When Delawareans face court-ordered fines and fees, many are unable to pay the amount they’ve been assigned, leading to spirals of debt and incarceration.

  • HB 244, formally HA 2 with HB 244, would eliminate a number of fines and fees, end fines and fees for juveniles, and would also prohibit the Division of Motor Vehicles from suspending driver’s licenses as a penalty for nonpayment of a fine, fee, costs, assessment, or restitution. This bill passed both chambers and awaits Governor Carney’s signature.

Voting Rights

Voting rights are the core of our democracy, and Delaware made major progress on expanding those rights this year.

  • HB 25, formally HS 1 for HB 25 with HA 1, the bill for same-day voter registration, will allow eligible voters to register to vote and cast their ballot on the same day. This bill passed both chambers and awaits Governor Carney’s signature.
  • SB 320, formally SB 320 - HA 1 with SA 2 and SA 27, will allow Delawareans to vote by mail. Many Delawareans voted by mail during the 2020 elections thanks to temporary vote-by-mail legislation, contributing to a significant increase in voter participation. SB 320 will permanently allow vote-by-mail. This bill passed both chambers and awaits Governor Carney’s signature.

What’s Still Left to Do

Cannabis Legalization

Despite its popularity with Delawareans and widespread legislative support, cannabis legalization and regulation did not pass this year.

  • HB 371, would have legalized possession of cannabis by adults. HB 371 passed both chambers, was vetoed by Governor Carney, and failed an attempted veto override.

Economic Justice

As the cost of rent rises and eviction and homelessness rates grow, securing the right to representation for low-income renters would have addressed the eviction crisis at its roots and provided resources to keep more families housed.

  • SB 101, formally SS 1 for SB 101, the bill for low-income renters’ right to representation in eviction proceedings, passed the Senate but did not pass its House floor vote.

Smart Justice

Two years after legislators promised meaningful police reform, that promise remains unfulfilled. 

  • In its original form, SB 149, the bill to reform the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, would have increased police transparency and accountability. In its amended form, SS 1 for SB 149, the bill would have taken community oversight boards out of civilians’ hands, placed a single oversight board under the supervision of law enforcement, and kept most police disciplinary records shrouded in secrecy. We opposed this substitute, and the bill did not receive a floor vote in either chamber.

What’s Next?

Seeing a good bill fail is always disheartening – especially when it has immense public support – but that doesn’t mean the fight is over. In fact, every seat in the General Assembly is up for election this year, meaning that if we elect candidates who support our civil liberties, we can build a legislature that can create meaningful change in the next two years.

Here’s what we’re working on in the coming months and how you can get involved.

Voter Education

Now that Delaware has passed some major expansions to our voting rights, it’s time to get started on voter education. As we approach the 2022 primary and general elections, stay tuned to VoteDelaware.org for voter education events, candidate stances, and more. You can also pledge to be an ACLU Voter to sign up for updates.

Take the pledge

Recruiting ACLU Voter Campaign Social Media Ambassadors

If you’re passionate about voter education and social media content creation, this is an opportunity for you. The Social Media Ambassador (SMA) position helps facilitate voter education with our ACLU Voter Campaign. Using social media channels, SMAs will serve as online representatives of the Voter Campaign. You can learn more about this program on our website.

Social Media Ambassador program

Increasing Expungement Access

The two Clean Slate bills passed in 2021 are still undergoing implementation, so there’s still a need for expungement information and resources to help increase access to second chances. We’re addressing this need by partnering with other community organizations to host expungement clinics and workshops up and down the state.

Visit our Events page

Ensuring Reproductive Freedom

Abortion rights advocates in Delaware are bracing for an influx of patients traveling from hostile states to receive abortion care. With the launch of the First State Abortion Fund (FSAF), Delawareans and patients traveling to Delaware will soon have a new avenue of support. Learn more about FSAF on their website. 

Note: the link below will take you to a third-party website, firststateabortionfund.org.

Learn more about FSAF