Legislative Update

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Legislative Update, December 14, 2020
Governor Issues Additional Measures Under Emergency Order: On Thursday, Dec 10, Governor John Carney on signed the fourth revision to the omnibus emergency order, announcing additional restrictions to confront the winter surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Delaware. Additional restrictions include:
  • Businesses above 100,000 square feet are limited to 20 percent of stated fire capacity.
  • All other businesses, including most retail stores and all restaurants, are limited to 30 percent of stated fire capacity.
  • Retail below 5,000 square feet, all Houses of Worship, and funeral services are limited to 40 percent of stated fire capacity.
  • A 10 p.m. curfew will be imposed at Delaware restaurants and bars. **Restaurants can deliver past 10 p.m.
  • Exercise classes at gyms are limited to 10 people and individuals who are not part of the same household must remain at least 13 feet apart during classes.
  • Indoor gatherings at businesses or indoor spaces open to the public must be limited to the lesser of 30 percent of the venue’s stated fire capacity, or 10 people.
Employees are excluded from business capacity restriction calculations.
All new restrictions will take effect at 8 a.m. on Monday, December 14. Governor Carney’s fourth revision also formally authorizes previously announced restrictions:
  • Stay-at-Home Advisory: Delawareans are strongly advised to stay at home and not to gather with anyone outside their household from December 14-January 11 to reduce the dangerous surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
  • Universal mask mandate: Delawareans and visitors must wear masks anytime they are indoors with anyone outside of their household.
The Electoral College Votes Today: Today, Monday, December 14, Electoral College delegates will meet in state capitols around the country to cast their votes for president of the United States. President-Elect  Joseph R. Biden, Jr. won 306 electoral college votes in the general election to President Trump’s 232. Following the Electoral College vote, the next step is for Congress to certify the results in January.  Attempts to challenge the results of the election by the president and various supporters have been unsuccessful.
Congress Working to Beat the December 18 Deadline for Major Fiscal Legislation: Congress is working to an omnibus budget bill and a pandemic relief and stimulus bill prior to this Friday, when the continuing resolution currently funding the federal government at FY 2020 levels expires, and when they are scheduled to leave for the holiday break. There is also the matter of the Defense Authorization Act. Additional information on the three measures follows:
  • The omnibus budget package combines the 12 regular budget bills into one $1.4 trillion package which will fund the government at FY 2021 levels through the remainder of FY 2021 (September 30). As the details of this and the relief and stimulus bill were being negotiated, Congress extended the deadline a week past December 11, when the original continuing resolution expired. Should the Congress fail to pass the package, another continuing resolution would be necessary.
  • A pandemic relief and economic stimulus plan is also being negotiated. The plan, developed by a bipartisan group of U.S. senators, which included Delaware’s Senator Chris Coons, and backed by the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus, would act as a stopgap measure through March, when the Biden Administration is expected to pursue a larger package.
While House and Senate leadership initially signaled that the compromise plan was a good starting point for negotiations, two issues are delaying progress: aid to state and local governments and liability protections for businesses and other entities where coronavirus-related lawsuits are concerned. The Hill reported this morning that negotiators are plan into two separate bills: one will contain only the aid to state and local government and liability protections which will cost $160 billion; the other will contain the remaining elements of the plan such as a new round of Paycheck Protection Program funding and unemployment assistance and will cost $748 billion. House and Senate leadership would like to attach the measure to the omnibus spending package.
Among the key elements of the plan are the following: 
  • $160 billion in aid to state and local governments (contained in separate bill with liability protections)
  • A short-term suspension of liability related to Covid-19 at the state and federal levels (contained in separate bill with aid to state and local governments)
  • $288 billion in small business relief, to include another round of PPP funding
  • $16 billion for vaccine distribution
  • $82 billion in assistance to schools
  • $25 billion for rental assistance
  • $180 billion for additional UI, to include an additional $300 per week through March on top of existing benefits and an extension of federal unemployment benefit programs for the same period
  • $26 billion in agricultural and nutritional/food assistance
  • $17 billion in relief for airlines
  • $45 billion for transit agencies, including airlines, airports, buses and Amtrak
  • $10 billion for the U.S. Postal Service; and 
  • $10 billion for childcare. 
In prior negotiations which stalled, House Democratic leadership sought a $2.2 trillion spending plan, while the Trump Administration ultimately offered to go as high as $1.9 trillion – which was not accepted by the Speaker. Senate Republicans developed a $500 billion plan that omitted, among other things, aid to state and local governments. That plan failed to gain enough votes for cloture in two attempts to bring it to a vote.
Leading economists and business leaders have been urging the passage of a new round of stimulus and relief funding for months, citing the likelihood of dire economic consequences in the absence of such a measure.
  • The National Defense Authorization Act was passed by both houses by a veto proof majority following a veto threat by the president. The Act is the annual measure which authorizes the budget for the U.S. Department of Defense. President Trump is threatening to veto the measure for two reasons. First, the legislation contains language which would change the names of military bases carrying the names of Confederate leaders. The president has indicated his strong opposition to doing so. The president’s second objection to the legislation is the absence of language which would repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. Section 230 of the Act provides liability protections for online platforms for content posted by third parties. His desire to see this language eliminated is an outgrowth of his ongoing feud with social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Presidents have threatened to veto the National Defense Authorization Act in the past; however, the measure has become law 59 years in a row (since its inception as a legislative measure).  
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