2023 Legislative Recap: How we did and what we're doing next

The first leg of the 152nd General Assembly has come to an end. Since January, we've been working hard on issues like economic justice, criminal legal reform, reproductive freedom, and education equity. 

In the midst of a nationwide attack on civil liberties, Delaware took historic legislative steps towards a better future for all Delawareans. It wasn't easy and there is still plenty of work to be done, but we are more ready than ever to continue the fight in the second half of 2023 and prepare for the 2024 legislative session. 

Thank you for sending messages, showing up, and making your voice heard our work is not possible without the support of civil liberties advocates like you.

We're not backing down and we're betting neither are you.

What We Accomplished

Renters' Rights

This year, Delaware passed historic legislation that gives all Delawareans – regardless of their circumstances or background – a fighting chance to remain in their homes when facing eviction. A win for renters is a win for housing justice, racial justice, and economic justice.

  • Senate Substitute 1 for Senate Bill 1 (SS 1 for SB 1), legislation ensuring low-income renters a right to representation in eviction proceedings, passed the General Assembly and is on it's way to the governor's desk. Delaware now joins just four other states – Connecticut, Maryland, Washington, and Minnesota – in providing the right to representation to renters in both public and private housing, marking a successful conclusion to a three-year campaign led by a broad coalition of Delaware housing advocates and renters.

Abortion Provider Protection

Delaware has already been a leader by joining 17 other states in guaranteeing abortion rights in state law, but there is much more to be done to ensure the First State is a true safe haven for abortion access. This year, Delaware passed critical legislation to protect abortion care providers. 

  • Senate Bill 158 (SB 158), legislation that protects the private information of abortion care providers, passed the General Assembly and now awaits the governor's signature. Legislation like this ensure Delaware remains safe not only for those seeking abortions, but also for those providing care. 

Probation Reform

For individuals returning home after incarceration, the hurdles to successful reentry remain substantial. Over 10,000 Delawareans are subject to the extreme obstacles that the state’s current probation system presents. This legislative session, the Senate took steps towards laying the groundwork for 2024 to be the year probation reform becomes reality in Delaware.

  • Senate Substitute 1 for Senate Bill 4 (SS 1 for SB 4), legislation that eliminates systemic barriers that prevent those serving probation from successfully rejoining society, was successfully voted out of the Senate Corrections Committee on June 28. Criminal legal reform advocates are optimistic that this bill remains primed for full passage next year.

Education Equity

In 2020, ACLU-DE was a part of successfully negotiating a historic settlement on behalf of education and community advocates. This settlement required the creation of an independent entity that assists students and families in working with schools to resolve various issues, conflicts, and disputes.

  • House Bill 188 (HB 188), legislation that codifies the Delaware Public Education Ombudsperson Program and ensures its sustainability, now heads to the governor's desk for signature. The program will support parents and students in addressing disputes concerning disparate discipline, inequitable access to school programs, or otherwise different or unfair treatment of students.

  • House Bill 62 (HB 62) requires each county to reassess the value of real property at regular intervals. HB 62 was precipitated by ACLU-DE’s historic litigation that required all three counties to update outdated property values, which does some of the work to redistribute property tax burdens and provide a more accurate picture of the funding that schools need to achieve greater equity in education. The bill now awaits the governor’s signature. 

Cannabis Legalization

For far too long, the failed war on drugs has devastated communities through arrests and mass incarceration. This year, Delaware became the 22nd state to legalize cannabis, taking a logical step towards achieving racial justice and meaningful criminal legal reform.

  • House Bill 1 (HB 1) repeals 10 illegal acts of possession, ends probable cause searches based on the real, perceived or alleged odor of cannabis, and protects and restores the rights of 1 in 5 Delaware adults with cannabis-related convictions. House Bill 2 (HB 2) allows Delaware adults age 21+ to purchase a personal use quantity of cannabis from a liscense retail store. 

What’s Still Left to Do

Police Accountability and Transparency 

Three years after Delaware legislators promised meaningful police reform, that promise remains unfulfilled. In 2024, we will continue to call for public access to all misconduct records and independent community oversight boards.

  • On June 30, the Delaware General Assembly passed House Substitute 1 for House Bill 205 (HB 205) and House Bill 206 (HB 206), legislation that falls short of the necessary and meaningful steps to restore the community’s trust in law enforcement. HB 205 does little to provide true transparency or accountability for police misconduct or abuse, reaffirms a culture of secrecy within law enforcement agencies, and prioritizes the comfort of law enforcement over the safety of our communities. Advocates and impacted families say the bill falls short of addressing the needs and concerns of communities impacted by police misconduct by:
    • Maintaining the status quo of allowing police to investigate themselves– giving them decision-making power as to whether a complaint of misconduct gets a formal investigation and if that complaint is substantiated or unsubstantiated;
    • Continuing the practice of denying public access to police misconduct records; and

Abortion Access

It has been one year since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. We're in the middle of a nationwide crisis and Delaware still has much to do to remove barriers and expand abortion rights, block efforts to strip people of bodily autonomy and ensure that individuals have agency in their own reproductive decisions. This year, Delaware lawmakers missed a critical opportunity to enhance abortion protection and ensure abortion services are accessible for all who need it. 

  • House Bill 110 (HB 110) would have ensured that people on Medicaid, private, and state insurance plans are able to access abortion care without financial burden. Funding abortion care through Medicaid, private, and state insurance will help break down socioeconomic barriers and address racial disparities in reproductive health. Looking ahead, we are committed to continuing the work to ensure that finances are never a barrier to care. Real access to abortion means that people from all walks of life – young people, low-income people, those who live far from medical providers, and disabled people – are able to afford care.
  • Anti-abortion extremists will continue to find new ways to attack abortion access. In 2024, we call on Delaware lawmakers to demonstrate their commitment to reproductive freedom by funding training programs to ensure abortion care providers are prepared to handle an influx of out-of-state patients and enshrining abortion rights in the state’s constitution.

What’s Next?

The fight is far from over. Here are a few ways to stay involved in coming months. 

Support Delaware's First Abortion Fund

Abortion rights advocates in Delaware are bracing for an influx of patients traveling from hostile states to receive abortion care. The First State Abortion Fund (FSAF), launched last year, allows Delawareans and patients traveling to Delaware 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

Help Increase Expungement Access

Clean Slate automatic expungement legislation passed in 2021 is now one year away from implementation. 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

Become an Education Equity Ambassador

Are you concerned with violations of students’ rights, underfunding, systemic racism, and harsh disciplinary practices in Delaware public schools? Are you interested in becoming a trained advocate for a safe, equitable, and proficient education for all Delaware students? Become an Education Equity Ambassador (EEA)!

We are excited to launch the EEA program to recruit, train, and empower Delaware parents and guardians to advocate for our schools and children and enable them with the skills to make changes for the better.

Learn more and apply