Governor Carney Signs Bill Allowing Organ Donation for HIV-Positive Donors and Recipients

Governor also recognized April 2017 as National Donate Life Month in Delaware

Governor Carney signs Senate Bill 17
Governor Carney signs Senate Bill 17.

DOVER, Del.  –  Governor Carney on Tuesday signed into law Senate Bill 17, which allows HIV-positive Delawareans to donate organs to HIV-positive recipients, and allows organs from HIV-positive donors to be used for clinical research.

Governor Carney also signed a proclamation recognizing April 2017 as National Donate Life Month in Delaware.

“Delawareans are compassionate people who understand that organ and tissue donation saves lives,” said Governor Carney. “Our state is already a leader in donor registration. I was proud to sign a proclamation recognizing April 2017 as National Donate Life Month in Delaware and to sign Senate Bill 17, which makes common sense changes to allow even more Delawareans to benefit from the compassion of others and live fuller lives.”

“We’ve come a long way since the 1980s,” said Senator Bryan Townsend, D-Newark, who sponsored the legislation. “This legislation reflects major advances in our scientific and medical understanding of HIV, and it offers an opportunity to substantially improve quality of life and life expectancy for transplant recipients with and without HIV.”

“Our healthcare laws should be driven by research and medical advances and we should do what we can to erase the fear and stigma of previous policies,” said Representative Dave Bentz, D-Newark. “Senate Bill 17 ultimately will help save lives and I am happy that we have paved the way for more people in Delaware to receive the gift of life.”

Governor Carney was joined at the bill signing by Speaker of the Delaware  House of Representatives Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, an organ donor; members of the Gift of Life Donor Program, a nonprofit, federally designated organ procurement organization serving the eastern half of Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware; and organ and tissue donation advocates.

“The need for organ and tissue donors is extensive and affects people across our community.” said Howard M. Nathan, President and CEO, Gift of Life Donor Program. “We salute Delaware for its continued advocacy and commitment to our mission.”

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Governor Signs Legislation Creating a Division of Forensic Science

New division replaces Office of the Chief Medical Examiner

Dover, DE – Following a 35 – 4 vote in the House, Governor Markell signed Senate Bill 241 into law today setting up the Division of Forensic Science to take over the operations previously conducted by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.  The bill, which was approved by the Senate 18 – 2 earlier this month, reorganizes the forensic sciences in a new Division within the Department of Safety and Homeland Security.  The bill also establishes a Forensic Science Commission to provide important oversight and assistance to the office.

“Forensic science is at the core of our work in the criminal justice system,” said Governor Markell.  “This legislation will help us create a structure for forensic science that can support the criminal justice community in a way that is expert, timely, professionally independent, and accountable.  I would like to thank Senator Marshall, Senator Hall-Long, Rep. Barbieri, and Rep. Mitchell for their leadership in helping us take this important step to improving the operations of this important office.”

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Robert Marshall (D-Wilmington), Sen. Bethany Hall-Long (D- Middletown), Rep. John Mitchell (D-Elsmere) and Rep. Mike Barbieri (D-Newark) will create a new division director to head the forensic science operation. The Forensic Science Commission will include representatives of law enforcement, forensic science experts, a prosecutor, a public defender and heads of the state Health and Homeland Security agencies.

“This is a modernization of a state agency that we’ve come to find is necessary and long overdue,” said Rep. Barbieri, who chairs the House Health and Human Development Committee. “This legislation creates a new framework for the important jobs done by the medical examiner, with a much improved level of oversight and accountability.”

“We place a tremendous amount of trust in the hands of the medical examiner’s office in our criminal justice system, and we need to know that our trust will be repaid in the form of thorough, professional work,” said Rep. Mitchell, chairman of the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee. “The changes being proposed will ensure that we get what we expect from a state crime lab and the individuals appointed to run it.”

The Commission would have oversight of the Division of Forensic Science, including review of its operations, staffing and resource needs, quality assurance, evidence protocols, responsiveness to the criminal justice community, accreditation and audit needs, and maintenance of the professional independence of its expert staff. The Commission would also consider whether additional changes in the structure or the organization of forensic sciences in Delaware would be more efficient or make the office more effective.

“Senate Bill 241 answers the question Delawareans have been asking since this February when the scandal at the Medical Examiner’s Office was revealed: ‘Who is in charge?’” Marshall said. “That answer is the new division and the new director.”

“I think this bill responds to concerns that the division’s independence might be threatened by creating an oversight board to set up procedures and ensures that it can operate without undue influence,” Hall-Long said. “I think the overwhelming support this this measure received in the House and Senate will go a long way to reestablishing public confidence.”

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Governor Markell Signs Good Samaritan Bill to Prevent Overdose Deaths

Law established in memory of Delaware victims

Wilmington, DDSCF8680E –Surrounded by families who have lost loved ones to drug overdoses, Governor Jack Markell signed Senate Bill 116 today to address the rising number of these fatalities by granting criminal immunity to individuals who report an alcohol or drug overdose. The law bears the name of Kristen L. Jackson, who died of a prescription drug overdose in January 2012, when friends were afraid to call 911, and John M. Perkins Jr., who was killed by a heroin overdose in May 2011.

“If we might save just one life by removing the fear that prevents a victim or friend from calling for help, we should not hesitate,” said Markell, who also thanked the relatives of Jackson, Perkins and other victims.

“While dealing with a level of grief that most of us cannot comprehend, these families stepped forward to tell their stories of loss in the hope of preventing others from experiencing their heartache. Their efforts were crucial in establishing the Kristen L Jackson and John M. Perkins Jr. Law.”

SB 116 passed the Senate on June 18 and the House on June 26, with no dissenting votes in either chamber. It provides that someone who seeks medical attention for an overdose or life threatening emergency, including for him or herself, will not be arrested or prosecuted for crimes detailed in the law. These offenses do not include the most serious felonies, Classes A, B and C.

“This is a very big step and I’m thrilled that it has been signed into law today,” said Sen. Cathy Cloutier (R-Heatherbrooke), the bill’s prime sponsor. “I believe it is a law that will save lives in Delaware. Now we need to educate people that if they are with friends, they don’t need to be afraid to call 911 if things get out of hand. No one should die because of another’s fear of getting in trouble.”DSCF8663

“This has been an important, bipartisan effort on the part of Senator Cloutier and myself to save the lives of Delawareans,” said Sen. Bryan Townsend, D-Newark, who also sponsored the bill. “We appreciate the help and input of the Delaware State Police, the Attorney General’s Office and the University of Delaware in crafting a law that will do just that. I also appreciate the leadership of the Senate, the House and of Governor Markell for acting quickly to enact this life-saving measure.”

Representatives Helene Keeley (D-Wilmington South), Michael Barbieri (D-Newark) and Michael Mulrooney (D-Pennwood) sponsored the bill in the House.

The new law builds on Delaware’s ongoing commitment to ending the epidemic of prescription drug abuse, which kills more Delawareans every year than traffic accidents. Last year, the Department of State launched the prescription monitoring program to track prescriptions and identify medical professional who abuse their license to prescribe highly addictive drugs.

Before ending its 2013 session Sunday night, the General Assembly passed reforms backed by the Department to mandate doctors’ participation in the program, while also reducing the amount of pills that can be prescribed in emergencies, and, for the first time, requiring prescribers and dispensers to take mandatory controlled substances training.

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Governor Signs Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Act

Protects transgender individuals from discrimination

Dover, DE – Governor Jack Markell signed the Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Act (SB 97) today, ensuring equal legal protections to transgender individuals in Delaware.

The bill forbids discrimination against a person on the basis of gender identity and provides for increased punishment of a person who intentionally selects the victim of a crime because of the victim’s gender identity. Prior to its passage, it has been legal to fire someone, deny them housing, or throw them out of a restaurant simply because they are transgender.

The changes established by the SB 97 afford transgender Delawareans the same legal protections already granted to everyone on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, among other characteristics. Nearly 200 Delaware businesses had signed a statement of support for the passage of the law.

“Our mission to build a welcoming and accepting state that can compete in the global economy requires laws that reflect our values,” said Markell. “Today, we guarantee that our transgender relatives and neighbors can work hard, participate in our communities, and live their lives with dignity and in safety.”

“I especially want to thank my friend Sarah McBride, an intelligent and talented Delawarean who happens to be transgender. She courageously stood before the General Assembly to describe her personal struggles with gender identity and communicate her desire to return home after her college graduation without fear. Her tireless advocacy for passage of this legislation has made a real difference for all transgender people in Delaware.”

The Senate passed the final version of the bill earlier in the day by an 11-9 vote following approval in the House on Tuesday by a 24-17 margin. Senate Majority Whip Margaret Rose Henry, D-Wilmington East, was the lead sponsor, with additional sponsorship from Senate President Patricia Blevins and Representative Bryon Short.

“This simply does something that should have been done a long time ago. We are extending the same basic protections against discrimination and hate crimes that all our other citizens enjoy to a group that has been discriminated against for a long time,” said Henry. “When the governor signs this bill, it says Delaware is a welcoming place to come and live and that we welcome all people and that we treat them fairly and equitably.”

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Governor Signs School Choice Reform, Keeps Pledge from State-of-the-State

House Bill 90, sponsored by Rep. Kimberly Williams, streamlines program to ensure families can choose best education option

Newark, DE – After vowing in his State of the State 2013 to address unfair burdens of the school choice system on Delaware families, Governor Jack Markell signed legislation (House Bill 90) today to simplify the application process and help ensure students can attend their chosen school.

Markell made the law official in front of administrators, teachers, parents and students at Red Clay Consolidated School District’s Forest Oak Elementary School, where nearly one in three students attends as part of the choice program. The initiative, which required an update after not receiving substantive legislative attention since 1998, allows students to apply to public, charter or vocational technical schools throughout the state without regard to where they live. In the current school year, 28 percent of students utilize some form of school choice within or outside the bounds of their home district.

“Our students are our future and the key to our efforts to ensure Delaware will compete and win in the 21st century economy,” said Governor Markell. “They will only perform their best if we put them in an environment that is most conducive to learning for them. This bill will help families navigate the available options and make the right educational choices for their children.”

HB 90 was spearheaded by Representative Kimberly Williams, a former PTA President at Forest Oaks Elementary school, who worked with the Governor, Senator Nicole Poore and education community leaders to craft reforms. A former Red Clay Consolidated School District board member, Rep. Williams said she was proud to help lead the effort to update the complicated school choice system.

“As a local PTA president and a school board member, I have been a long-time advocate for improvements to our school choice program,” said Rep. Williams, D-Stanton. “Not only does this bill make the process easier, it makes it fair. All students deserve a level playing field in the choice system. I am thrilled to have helped get this measure passed and I look forward to continuing to work with schools and educators to help our children succeed.”

Sen. Nicole Poore, D-Barb’s Farm, who guided the bill through the Senate, said the law makes needed improvements to the school choice process.

“We’re making the school choice application process easier for families to use by requiring uniform application forms and deadlines,” Poore said. “We’re also making sure that the choice program offers our children with disabilities who have IEP plans a chance to participate, and that makes this law a great opportunity for every child in Delaware.”

HB 90 will:

  • Make it easier for parents to navigate the choice process by standardizing application forms and deadlines across traditional, vocational technical, and charter schools; allowing parents to submit choice applications through the Department of Education website; and requiring districts to hold public information sessions about choice opportunities.
  • Eliminate discrimination against choice students by requiring districts to use the same standards for choice students as they do for students in their attendance zone, and limiting the criteria a district may use to evaluate choice applications.
  • Streamline the role of school capacity in the choice process by specifying the criteria that may be used in reporting capacity and requiring districts to accept choice students until they are at 85% of capacity.
  • Help state leaders understand and recommend changes to all public school enrollment preferences by creating a task force to explore enrollment preferences at magnet, vocational technical, and charter schools, and to develop recommendations as necessary.

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Additional photos from the event can be found on the Governor’s Flickr Page.

A video of the bill signing is available on the Governor’s YouTube channel.