GEORGETOWN, Del., June 22—The Sussex County Republican Committee took the extraordinary and unprecedented measure this Monday, June 20, of filing an ethics complaint with House Speaker Peter C. Schwartzkopf against House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst. Both Schwartzkopf and Longhurst are Democrats.
A copy of that letter can be found on the Sussex GOP website: https://sussexgop.org/sussex-republicans-file-ethics-complaint/
On June 8, 2022, a large number of Sussex County residents, many of whom were Republicans, traveled to Dover to participate in hearings before the House Administration Committee chaired by Representative Longhurst. Many of those people were shocked and appalled by the manner in which the hearings were conducted and by the blatant conflict of interest displayed throughout that meeting by Representative Longhurst.
At issue were two bills, House Bill 450, a gun ban bill, and House Bill 451 a bill that would limit the age at which adults under the age of 21 could own, purchase or possess a rifle or pistol. Both bills were highly controversial and both bills raised numerous constitutional questions for many Sussex County Republicans, and others.
The ethics complaint centers on the fact that Longhurst was not only the Prime Sponsor of House Bill 450 but also the Chair of the committee hearing the bill. It also focuses on the fact that Longhurst arbitrarily and capriciously limited public comment to a mere one (1) minute per person and limited overall comment to less than 90 minutes per bill. When House Minority Leader Danny Short (R- Seaford) attempted to get Longhurst to extend the times to allow for a full and complete airing of the issues, Longhurst cut him off and ignored his plea for more time.
The purpose of legislative committee hearings is to elicit input from the public and experts with knowledge of the facts and issues pertinent to the bill under consideration, and to consider the overall efficacy, advisability, legality, and constitutionality of the bill as proposed, to consider the need for amendments, and to determine whether a bill is appropriate for consideration by the whole House.
In other words, the purpose of a committee hearing is to hear from all concerned, to learn from all concerned, and to address the issues raised by all concerned. That did not happen, and it did not happen because Representative Longhurst prevented that from happening, thwarting the legislative process.
Representative Longhurst further expressed her disdain for the concept of legislative due process by withholding from the committee and from the public both the contents and concepts contained in the amendment she intended to introduce, and did introduce, the following day.
House Amendment 1 to House Bill 450 dramatically and fundamentally changed the tone, tenor, concept and legal impact of House Bill 450. Not only did Representative Longhurst withhold from both the committee and the public her intent to introduce that Amendment, she intentionally failed to give other legislators and the public any warning, much less fair warning, that she intended to dramatically change House Bill 450 from the bill under consideration in her House Administration Committee to the Bill ultimately voted upon on the floor of the House the next day.
Those two bills should never have been assigned to the House Administration Committee. They are both public safety bills and should have been assigned to either the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee or the House Judiciary Committee.
Representative Longhurst should have removed herself from chairing the committee hearing a bill for which she was Prime Sponsor. She should have allowed ample time for public comment and testimony, and she should have refrained from engaging in dialogue and comments from the Chair repeatedly disrespecting the good citizens of Delaware who traveled to Dover to express their concerns and offer their opinions on those two bills.
Although the Delaware House of Representatives is under the total control of the Democrats, we hope that Speaker Schwartzkopf and the other Democratic Leadership in the House will take Representative Longhurst to task and adopt procedures which will prevent such unethical and inappropriate conduct in the future.
About the Sussex County Republican Committee
The Sussex County Republican Committee is a grassroots organization that strives to create an environment that holds dear our God-given rights and fosters an informed and active citizenry. It is the mission of the Sussex County Republican Committee to assist in the election of Republican candidates, to act as an advocate for the Republican Party’s principles, and to empower citizens to participate in the political process.
Marilyn Booker, Chair, Sussex County Republican Committee, SussexGOP@protonmail.com