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State lawmaker proposes rules change to limit powers of House leadership

From: Delaware Public Media

State Rep. Bryan Shupe (R-Milford) is promoting a proposed change to House rules that would scale back House leadership’s ability to leave bills in limbo.

According to data from the 150th General Assembly – covering the 2020 and 2021 legislative sessions – bills sponsored by Democrats were roughly twice as likely to receive a hearing when assigned to the House Administration Committee compared to bills sponsored by Republicans.

The same disparities do not appear in other powerful committees, including the House education committee.

Shupe attributes the disparity in the House administration committee to the powers of the chair, the House Majority Leader – a position currently held by State Rep. Valerie Longhurst. The chair is responsible for setting the committee’s agenda, and while House rules dictate all bills receive a committee hearing within 12 days of their introduction, that isn’t easily enforced. The House Speaker exercises similar control over the floor agenda.

Shupe says he plans to introduce a proposal giving a committee hearing automatically to any bill that hasn’t been heard within 12 days of its introduction. He also proposes amending House rules to put any bill on the House floor if it is released from committee and not added to the agenda within 12 days.

He says the rule changes would limit the control of House leadership enough to give every bill an equal opportunity for consideration.

“If a bipartisan committee – Democrats and Republicans – have voted for a bill to be heard on the House floor, then it deserves a spot on the House floor,” he said. “That should not be up to one person – the Speaker of the House – regardless of who it is.”

Though Shupe has detailed his proposal to constituents, he hasn’t yet introduced it for a vote.