"As we look forward to what wat progress we can now make, it's important that our priorities be clear, that people know how to gauge success," Attorney General Kathy Jennings said to WDEL.
Jennings issued Tuesday her list of legislative priorities her office would focus on in the coming year. She said 2020 presented a number of unforeseen challenges that both redirected and clarified the things her office needed to accomplish.
"I represent all of the people who live in Delaware, and up and down the state they have told us what they want to see done in Delaware, and how we can move forward both with a fairer and more inclusive system of government, as well as being responsive and flexible in terms of the needs that people have," she said.
Responding to those challenges and making sure her list of goals clearly reflected the Department of Justice's understanding of the areas where society in Delaware needed to improve was important to continue rebuilding a stronger relationship with the First State's citizenry.
"One of the things I think we all need to be able to do in government is to pivot when circumstances descend on us," she said. "We need to be able to to adapt to respond...One, the pandemic has really, I think, awakened up to the reality that we need to make sure our voting system and our voting rights are assiduously protected at a time when people couldn't leave their house...With respect to racial justice, there has been a deep awakening in this country--actually, across the world--after George Floyd was so brutally killed, and so many other people of color have been killed needlessly."
Those incidents have spurred the following list, legislation Jennings said the DOJ will focus on in 2021 to make sure the state is working for the good of all:
- Requiring a permit to purchase firearms, a policy that has led in red and blue states alike to significant reductions in gun homicides and gun suicides
- Banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, policies the Attorney General has supported for years
- Regulating homemade gun kits, which are playing an increasing role in Delaware’s shootings
- Funding body cameras for every police officer in Delaware, which was one of 15 police reform proposals AG Jennings proposed in 2020, and for which Gov. Carney included significant funding in his recommended budget for 2021
- Creating a consistent, objective use of force standard to replace Delaware law’s current subjective, vague, and confusing standard
- Ending cash bail to ensure that violent offenders can’t go free because of their wealth and that people are not detained simply because of their poverty
- Ending excessive court fines and fees which contribute to recidivism and have created a modern-day debtor’s prison for those who are clearly unable to pay
- Outlawing unfair business practices, aligning Delaware law with current policy in 46 states and the District of Columbia
- Securing the right to vote, including expanding the right to vote early and making permanent the right to vote by mail
- Banning guns in polling places, an anti-voter intimidation measure that closes a gap in Delaware law
"Let's look at the system of justice from law enforcement, to prosecution, to the court. We have made it a top priority since the protests that began this summer," she said. "We need to make sure that every police officer in our state is equipped with a body-worn camera. Because what we see with body-worn cameras, when we talk to members of the public [is] a means of building trust, a means of creating transparency."
Additionally, protecting consumers made the list of priorities after the pandemic revealed Delaware's laws protecting buys were sorely lacking.
"It's never been more important that we outlaw unfair business practices. We saw during the pandemic, price gouging that companies and businesses were engaged in," Jennings said. "Most companies and businesses were very understanding of people's needs, and very, very responsive to people in Delaware, so I'd say it is really the exception. But you may think it's already illegal to engage in unfair business practices; Well, in Delaware, it's not. We're only one of only six states that has not explicitly outlawed unfair business practices like coercive sales tactics, or charging for services that a consumer never requested, or price gouging. So, it's time we do it."
She knows every issue has naysayers or people who don't like change standing in the way, but Jennings said she wants people to know they're being heard, and that her ultimate goals are priorities she feels have the best interests of the masses in mind.
"I look at as being safer. Let's talk about gun safety law," Jennings said. "How I deal with it is, I want to sit down and talk to people. We have to sit across the table from each other, and hear each other and listen to each other, and see if we can arrive at a place where Delaware's a safer place, and everyone can come to consensus."