Apr 25, 2012 posted by: Mari Lou-WGMD News
UPDATE – 11pm: Legislation that would define the sheriff’s powers was stricken yesterday before the House Administration Committee meeting even began. Representative Pete Schwartzkopf, who was out of the chamber when HB 290 sponsor Representative Danny Short struck the bill, tells WGMD he did listen to Short’s comments after the fact…
However Schwartzkopf says the issue isn’t dead…
The County Council did support the bill with a unanimous vote. Schwartzkopf says that those who are opposed to the bill have been using intimidation to get sponsors to drop off the measure…
He adds that while House Bill 290 is gone – it will likely be resurrected and come back with a new number and name. Representative Danny Short is now planning to introduce a House Concurrent Resolution which will ask the State Supreme Court to determine if the sheriffs have the authority to make arrests under the state Constitution.
CLICK HERE FOR The Sussex County Report-HB290
NEWS RELEASE: Controversial Bill Clarifying the Powers of Delaware’s County Sheriffs Stricken
Citing apparent political gamesmanship over a bill that has been at the center of controversy for several weeks, State Representative Daniel B. Short (R-Seaford) today announced that he is striking House Bill 290, which is intended to clarify the duties of Delaware’s county sheriffs and their deputies.
Rep. D. Short – prime sponsor of the bill – informed the Speaker of the House and Chief Clerk at the start of today’s session that he was striking House Bill 290.
Rep. D. Short stated, “Before the Legislature recessed a few weeks ago, I believe we had a path forward. As the prime sponsor of House Bill 290, I requested that the House Administration Committee table the legislation then. Prior to the bill being tabled, I said during that committee hearing that the sponsors of the bill and I have agreed on the next steps in this
process. We were planning to make a formal request of the Delaware Supreme Court to determine whether the sheriffs and their deputies have the authority to arrest under any provision in the State Constitution.”
Rep. D. Short further stated, “The plan changed once I noticed that House Bill 290 was again placed on the House Administration Committee’s agenda for today – not at my request. This issue is too important to allow it to be used as a pawn in an apparent game of politics. Given the latest turn of events, I feel I had no other choice but to strike the bill.”
Rep. D. Short has been working on a House Concurrent Resolution that would make a formal request of the State Supreme Court to determine if the sheriffs have the authority to make arrests under Delaware’s Constitution. The resolution has not yet been introduced, as it is still being circulated for sponsorship.
According to Rep. D. Short, “There is a longstanding tradition in the General Assembly that if the sponsor of a bill has requested his or her legislation to be tabled in committee, the committee chairman yields to the sponsor’s request. That was not the case with House Bill 290. It is my opinion that there was an attempt to take control of this issue from me, as the prime sponsor of the bill, by having it placed on the committee agenda. The only right course of action was to strike the bill and prevent any further political stunts from happening.”
Rep. D. Short introduced House Bill 290 with bi-partisan support last month after the Attorney General’s Office, in response to an inquiry on the issue, opined that the State Legislature should pass legislation to codify what is believed to be the intent of the Delaware Code and explicitly prohibit the sheriff from carrying out police powers.
In the February 23rd opinion, State Solicitor Lawrence Lewis wrote, “After consideration of the Delaware Constitution, statutes, and case decisions, we conclude that the Sheriff and his deputies do not have authority to arrest.”
House Bill 290 was filed on behalf of Sussex County Council, which unanimously requested the measure. Sussex County officials recently provided a 64-page report to the members of the General Assembly, outlining the need for House Bill 290.
“Sussex County continues to support any measure that would help clarify the issues surrounding Delaware sheriffs and their authority,” Sussex County Administrator Todd F. Lawson said. “The issue over the role of the sheriff and his deputies remains in limbo, and it will continue to put our citizens and the taxpayers at risk for liability as long as it remains unresolved. That is why we remain hopeful the legislature will come back to this very important matter and settle the debate once and for all.”
Rep. D. Short, acknowledging that clarity on this issue is still needed, is planning to introduce the House Concurrent Resolution within the next several days.
UPDATED 4:25pm: There were a handful of people in the House Chamber gallery waiting to find out the fate of House Bill 290 which would stipulate that any Sheriff and his deputies in Delaware do not have the authority to arrest. The bill was stricken during the House Administration committee this afternoon. The legislation, sponsored by Representative Danny Short of Seaford, was unanimously supported by the Sussex County Council. WGMD’s Andrew Koch has more…..