Governor Markell signs rent justification law

Photos available on Flickr, video available on YouTube

Measure brings predictability to homeowners’ lives

DOVER – After years of uncertainty surrounding their annual rent increases, Gov. Jack Markell Sunday signed a measure limiting the majority of increases for manufactured housing community residents.

“The work done on this issue by lawmakers and advocates to come together and resolve a challenging issue reflects a theme of the legislative session that will conclude tonight,” Markell said during a Sunday afternoon bill signing ceremony. “I commend the sponsors of this legislation and all of the lawmakers involved for their hard work on a carefully crafted compromise that resulted in broad support, striking a balance between the needs of homeowners and community owners.”

Sen. Bruce Ennis, D-Smyrna, has led the fight for the law is a balanced compromise and said Markell’s signing represents a great day for homeowners.

“It has been a long struggle and I think this is great because it just creates some predictability for people in manufactured homes in regard to rent increases and I think it’s important that we were able to give some protections and predictability,” Ennis said. “It’s very important that we protect the property rights and the investment of the park owners while, at the same time, we’re creating predictable land rents for the tenants.”

Under the new law, community owners could automatically raise rents by the three-year average of the Philadelphia regional consumer price index. If circumstances, such as major capital improvements to a community, caused landowners to seek a higher rent hike, they would have to make their case before the state’s Manufactured Housing Relocation Authority.  The law also provides for arbitration and legal review – if an increase is disputed by either landowners or tenants. It also provides penalties for community owners who continue to raise rents beyond the ceiling.

Unlike traditional residential neighborhoods, where homeowners own both the home and the ground it sits on, homeowners in manufactured housing communities own their homes but rent the land. Unlike stereotypical mobile homes, once a modern day manufactured home is in place, it can be as difficult as a site-built home to move.

Officials say the homes make up about 11 percent of Delaware’s overall housing stock and, in some areas, they represent the best affordable housing choice for many people.

“It’s a unique arrangement,” said Sen. Brian Bushweller, D-Dover, who joined forces with Ennis on the bill.  “I think this is a great day for housing in Delaware because this is a law that recognizes that and takes great pains to ensure basic fairness for both sides. It gives more stability and predictability in budgeting, but it gives landowners a chance to increase rents and a mechanism for bigger increases if they are justifiable.”

Leaders of the Delaware Manufactured Homeowner Association and Land Lease Homeowners Association have been a constant presence at Legislative Hall in support the bill and earlier efforts. State Rep. Paul Baumbach said their willingness to work the issue out was important.

Congratulations to homeowners, DMHOA and LLHC for working together with each other and  legislators and landlords to fix this problem that has been plaguing tens of thousands of Delawareans for many years,” said Baumbach, D-Newark, the bill’s chief House sponsor.

Ed Speraw, president of the manufactured homeowners association, said the signing was a great day for homeowners.

“By doing this, we’ve helped thousands and thousands of manufactured homeowners, and these people needed this bill – badly,” he said. “This law will help thousands of people who might have been forced from their homes through dramatic rent increases keep their homes.”


Legislation that subjects gun offenders to life in prison passed today by General Assembly

Dover – By a vote of 40 – 1 the State House today sent to the Governor a bill that subjects offenders who use guns to commit crime to significantly higher jail sentences.  Senate Bill 40 adds the crime of “Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony” to the list of serious violent felonies that can trigger a life prison sentence under Delaware’s habitual offender statute.

“Gun violence is a threat to families in every corner of our state, and it has to stop,” Attorney General Biden said.  “With this bill we are sending a clear message that you will pay a heavy price if you commit a crime with a gun.”

The “Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony” charge was not an offense at the time the habitual offender statute was enacted in 1970.   SB 40 was introduced by Sen. Bruce Ennis, D-Smyrna, a retired state trooper, and Rep. Larry Mitchell, a retired New Castle County police officer. It was introduced in the Senate in April and passed the Senate unanimously on May 9.

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Legislation aimed at reducing prescription drug abuse passes General Assembly

   Dover – Delaware’s prescription monitoring efforts will be strengthened by legislation that received final approval in the General Assembly today and makes its way to Governor Markell for his signature.  Senate Bill 119, which passed the House unanimously tonight, responds to the recognition that increasing numbers of prescription drug addicts are turning to emergency rooms and urgent care clinics to obtain narcotics as enhanced enforcement has limited previous sources of drugs.  The legislation was developed by Attorney Biden’s office after consultations with regulators, medical professionals, and legislators and was introduced by two legislators who work as nurses: Senator Bethany-Hall Long, D-Middletown, chairwoman of the Senate’s Health and Social Services Committee, and Representative Rebecca Walker, D-Middletown.


SB 119 builds on Delaware’s prescription drug monitoring program by:

  • Limiting all medical facilities except licensed pharmacies from dispensing more than a 72-hour supply of a controlled substance to patients
  • Requiring all “dispensers” to enter any prescription of a controlled substance into the PMP, just as pharmacies are currently required to do, and
  • Requiring the Department of Health and Social Services to establish a uniform protocol to guide caregivers regarding the proper disposal of controlled substances upon a patient’s death.  Hospice care providers would also assist family members and caregivers to inventory and dispose of a patient’s remaining supply of controlled substances upon that patient’s death


“I want to thank the General Assembly for acting quickly to pass this important piece of legislation which will reduce prescription drug abuse in our state and help save lives,” Biden said.

Senate Bill 119 unanimously passed the Senate last week.

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Senate passes bill to increase minimum jail sentences for gun offenders

 Dover – The State Senate tonight passed legislation that increases the minimum prison sentences convicted felons face if they are subsequently convicted of possessing a gun.  House Bill 36, introduced by Representative Ruth Briggs King, R-Georgetown and strongly supported by Attorney General Beau Biden, doubles the mandatory jail sentences for repeat offenders later caught with a gun and increases additional mandatory sentences for the illegal possession of a gun.

“Keeping violent and repeat offenders who possess and use guns off the street for longer periods of time will make our communities safer,” Attorney General Biden said.

Under current law, persons prohibited under the law from possessing guns who are subsequently convicted of possessing or purchasing a gun face minimum mandatory jail sentences of 1 year if the offender was previously convicted of a violent felony; 3 years if the offender committed a previous violent felony within 10 years; and 5 years if the offender was previously convicted of 2 or more violent felonies.  House Bill 36, introduced by Representative Ruth Briggs King, R-Georgetown, increases those minimum mandatory jail sentences to 3 years if the offender was previously convicted of a violent felony; 5 years if the offender committed a previous violent felony within 10 years; and 10 years if the offender was previously convicted of 2 or more violent felonies. 

HB 36 now makes it way to the Governor for his signature.

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DSCYF Funds Extended Hours at Wilmington Community Centers

Wilmington – For the third consecutive summer, hundreds of children in the city of Wilmington will have a safe place to hang out at night. The Delaware Children’s Department’s Division of Prevention and Behavioral Health Services (PBHS), is providing nearly $200,000 in funding to nine city community centers this year, allowing them to extend their operating hours through September, and provide prevention programming.

“After-school and summer programs positively affect the well-being of our youth and help prevent risky behaviors,” said Governor Markell. “By providing kids with opportunities to be active, we help keep them safe and engaged in a variety of activities they may not otherwise experience.”

The extended Hours Program is designed to address violence occurring within the city by providing a safe haven for youth who might otherwise be out on the street, as well as age appropriate services and prevention programming. During the summer and early fall of 2012, more than 6,500 youth participated in the extended hours service, doubling the number of youth served the previous year. Youth participated in suicide awareness, anti-bullying, substance abuse prevention, character building, technology classes, and organized sports.

“We’re pleased to again be able to provide this opportunity for youth to have a safe and structured place to enjoy the summer months,” said Jennifer Ranji, Secretary of the Children’s Department. “It’s important for children to have the opportunity to interact with other children, to play, grow and thrive in a positive setting.”

“The Extended Hours program also provides youth with opportunities to receive prevention messages, as well as another outlet for accessing or being connected to mental health services if needed,” said Susan Cycyk, Director of PBHS.

The following nine organizations have been funded to provide extended hours: the Fraims Boys & Girls Club, Girls Inc., Latin American Community Center (LACC), William Hicks Anderson, West End Neighborhood, YMCA, Wilmington Police Athletic League (PAL), Kingswood, Neighborhood House. PBH is also funding the KiVa anti bullying program, which will be offered through the University of Delaware in seven of the centers to date.

The Children’s Department provides services to children who have been abused, neglected, are dependent, have mental health or substance problems, and/or have been adjudicated delinquent by the Courts as well as prevention services targeted toward all youth. For more information, please visit