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Delaware State Senate

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Delaware State Senate

Seal of Delaware.svg.png
General Information
Type:   Upper house
Term limits:   None
2015 session start:   January 13, 2015
Website:   Official Senate Page
Senate President:   Patricia Blevins (D)
Majority Leader:   David McBride (D)
Minority Leader:   Gary Simpson (R)
Members:  21
Length of term:   4 years
Authority:   Art II, Section 1, Delaware Constitution
Salary:   $41,680/year + $7,334 expenses/year
Last Election:  November 4, 2014 (10 seats)
Next election:  November 8, 2016
Redistricting:  Legislature controls redistricting
Meeting place:
The Delaware State Senate is the upper house of the Delaware General Assembly, which is the state legislature of Delaware. The Senate meets at the State Capitol in Dover. The senate includes 21 state senators who are elected from single-member districts to a four-year term.[1] (When redistricting occurs every ten years, some senators may instead be elected to two-year terms.) Delaware Senators are not subject to term limits. Each member represents an average of 42,759 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[2] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 37,314 residents.[3]

The Lieutenant Governor of Delaware serves as the President of the Senate, but only casts a vote when doing so is required to break a tie. When the Lieutenant Governor is not present, the President Pro Tempore -- who is elected by the majority party -- presides over the Senate.

As of April 2015, Delaware is one of 7 Democratic state government trifectas.

See also: Delaware State Legislature, Delaware House of Representatives, Delaware Governor


Article II of the Delaware Constitution establishes when the Delaware General Assembly, of which the Senate is a part, is to be in session. Section 4 of Article II states that the General Assembly is to convene on the second Tuesday of January of each calendar year, and it is not to extend beyond the last day of June.

Section 4 also allows the General Assembly to be convened into special session by the Governor of Delaware or by the mutual call of the presiding officers of both Houses.


See also: Dates of 2015 state legislative sessions

In 2015, the Legislature is in session from January 13 through June 30.

Major issues

Major issues in the 2015 legislative session include the annual budget, adding e-cigarettes to the Clean Indoor Air Act and gun control. Because the budget is required to be balanced by law and the Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council announced a flat revenue projection for the coming year, legislators are expected to have to difficult choices in order to maintain balance.[4]


See also: Dates of 2014 state legislative sessions

In 2014, the Legislature was in session from January 14 through July 1.

Major issues

Major issues in the 2014 legislative session included raising the minimum wage, gun control, the 2015 budget, campaign finance and the economy.[5]


See also: Dates of 2013 state legislative sessions

In 2013, the Legislature was in session from January 8 through July 1.

Major issues

Major issues in the 2013 legislative session included gun control, gay marriage, and budgetary problems.[6]


See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions

In 2012, the Senate was in session from January 10 through June 30.

Major issues

Legislators focused more on economic rather than social issues this session, including reforms to Medicaid and addressing the budget deficit.[7]


In 2010, the Senate was in session from January 12th to June 30th.[8]

Role in state budget

See also: Delaware state budget and finances
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The state operates on an annual budget cycle. The sequence of key events in the budget process is as follows:[9][10]

  1. In July and August of the year preceding the start of the new fiscal year, the governor sends budget instructions to state agencies.
  2. In October, agencies submit their budget requests to the governor.
  3. Budget hearings are held with the public in November.
  4. On or before February 1, the governor submits his or her proposed budget to the state legislature.
  5. The legislature must pass a budget with a simple majority by June 30. The fiscal year then begins in July.

The governor is constitutionally and statutorily required to submit a balanced budget to the legislature. In turn, the legislature must pass a balanced budget, and any budget signed into law by the governor must be balanced.[10]

Delaware is one of 44 states in which the governor has line item veto authority.[10]

Delaware maintains two major governmental funds: the General Fund and the Special Fund. Within the Special Fund, there are four category types: Appropriated Special Funds (ASF), Non-appropriated Special Funds (NSF), Federal Funds and Bond Funds.[11]

Cost-benefit analyses

See also: Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative Cost-Benefit Study
Map showing results of the Pew-MacArthur cost-benefit study.

The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative released a report in July 2013 indicating that cost-benefit analysis in policymaking led to more effective uses of public funds. Looking at data from 2008 through 2011, the study's authors found that some states were more likely to use cost-benefit analysis, while others were facing challenges and lagging behind the rest of the nation. The challenges states faced included a lack of time, money and technical skills needed to conduct comprehensive cost-benefit analyses. Delaware was one of 29 states with mixed results regarding the frequency and effectiveness in its use of cost-benefit analysis.[12]

Ethics and transparency

Following the Money report

See also: "Following the Money" report, 2014

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer-focused nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., released its annual report on state transparency websites in April 2014. The report, entitled "Following the Money," measured how transparent and accountable state websites are with regard to state government spending.[13] According to the report, Delaware received a grade of D+ and a numerical score of 63, indicating that Delaware was "lagging" in terms of transparency regarding state spending.[13]

Open States Transparency

See also: Open States' Legislative Data Report Card

The Sunlight Foundation released an "Open Legislative Data Report Card" in March 2013. Delaware was given a grade of C in the report. The report card evaluated how adequate, complete and accessible legislative data was to the general public. A total of 10 states received an A: Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Kansas, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington.[14]



See also: Delaware State Senate elections, 2014

Elections for the office of Delaware State Senate took place in 2014. A primary election took place on September 9, 2014. The general election was held on November 4, 2014. The signature-filing deadline for candidates wishing to run in this election was July 8, 2014.


Elections for the office of Delaware State Senate were held in Delaware on November 6, 2012. A total of 21 seats were up for election. Although Delaware senators typically serve four-year terms, they are elected to a two-year term during the first election of the decade. Thus, rather than only half of all senators being up for election, all sitting members were on the ballot in November.

The signature filing deadline was February 6, 2012 and the primary date was February 7 2012.

The following table details the 10 districts with the smallest margin of victory in the November 6 general election.


See also: Delaware State Senate elections, 2010

Elections for the office of Delaware State Senator were held in Delaware on November 2, 2010. Senate seats in ten of Delaware's 21 districts were up for election in 2010. These districts were: 1, 5, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13, 14, 15, 19, and 20.

The primary nomination process for candidates wishing to run in these elections was to gain the party's nomination at state conventions held by the state's two major political parties in May. Candidates wishing to run as independents could submit nominating signatures up through July 30. The primary Election Day was September 14, 2010.

The partisan breakdown of the Senate before and after the election was as follows:

Delaware State Senate
Party As of November 1, 2010 After the 2010 Election
     Democratic Party 15 14
     Republican Party 6 7
Total 21 21

In 2010, the total amount of contributions raised in senate campaigns was $643,813. The top 10 overall contributors were:[15]


See also: Delaware State Senate elections, 2008

Elections for the office of Delaware State Senate consisted of a primary election on September 9, 2008, and a general election on November 4, 2008.

During the 2008 election, the total value of contributions to Senate candidates was $1,296,843. The top 10 contributors were:[16]


See also: Delaware State Senate elections, 2006

Elections for the office of Delaware State Senate consisted of a primary election on September 12, 2006, and a general election on November 7, 2006.

During the 2006 election, the total value of contributions to Senate candidates was $1,144,623. The top 10 contributors were:[17]


See also: Delaware State Senate elections, 2004

Elections for the office of Delaware State Senate consisted of a primary election on September 11, 2004, and a general election on November 2, 2004.

During the 2004 election, the total value of contributions to Senate candidates was $963,920. The top 10 contributors were:[18]


See also: Delaware State Senate elections, 2002

Elections for the office of Delaware State Senate consisted of a primary election on September 7, 2002, and a general election on November 5, 2002.

During the 2002 election, the total value of contributions to Senate candidates was $1,485,767. The top 10 contributors were:[19]


See also: Delaware State Senate elections, 2000

Elections for the office of Delaware State Senate consisted of a primary election on September 9, 2000, and a general election on November 7, 2000.

During the 2000 election, the total value of contributions to Senate candidates was $908,155. The top 10 contributors were:[20]


Article II, Section 3 of the Delaware Constitution states: No person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained the age of twenty-seven years and have been a citizen and inhabitant of the State three years next preceding the day of his election and the last year of that term an inhabitant of the Senatorial District in which he shall be chosen, unless he shall have been absent on the public business of the United States or of this State.


See also: How vacancies are filled in state legislatures
How Vacancies are filled in State Legislatures
NevadaMassachusettsColoradoNew MexicoWyomingArizonaMontanaCaliforniaOregonWashingtonIdahoTexasOklahomaKansasNebraskaSouth DakotaNorth DakotaMinnesotaIowaMissouriArkansasLouisianaMississippiAlabamaGeorgiaFloridaSouth CarolinaIllinoisWisconsinTennesseeNorth CarolinaIndianaOhioKentuckyPennsylvaniaNew JerseyNew YorkVermontVermontNew HampshireMaineWest VirginiaVirginiaMarylandMarylandConnecticutConnecticutDelawareDelawareRhode IslandRhode IslandMassachusettsNew HampshireMichiganMichiganAlaskaVacancy fulfillment map.png

If there is a vacancy in the Senate, the Senate President must call for a special election. The election must be called for no later than 30 days after the vacancy happened. The Governor may make the declaration if the Senate is not in session. The date of the election must be set no later than 10 days after a declaration was made.Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag Significant population shifts threatened to radically alter state House and Senate districts. According to the Delaware Population Consortium, there was a large shift to the southern part of the state, with Sussex County growing by 25% while New Castle County only saw 7% growth.[21]

With a comfortable majority in the Senate, Democrats controlled the redistricting process, although Republicans did construct a counter-proposal to Democratic maps. The Senate map was approved on June 30, 2011 by a 15-6 vote. Two districts were merged in the northern part of the state in order to make room for a new southern district.[22][23]


Partisan composition

See also: Partisan composition of state senates

Senate Composition for the 146th General Assembly :

Party As of April 2015
     Democratic Party 13
     Republican Party 8
Total 21

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Delaware State Senate from 1992-2013.
Partisan composition of the Delaware State Senate.PNG


Current leadership

Current Leadership, Delaware State Senate
Office Representative Party
President of the Senate Patricia Blevins Electiondot.png Democratic
President Pro Tempore of the Senate Patricia Blevins Electiondot.png Democratic
State Senate Majority Leader David McBride Electiondot.png Democratic
State Senate Majority Whip Margaret Rose Henry Electiondot.png Democratic
State Senate Minority Leader Gary Simpson Ends.png Republican
State Senate Minority Whip Gregory Lavelle Ends.png Republican


See also: Comparison of state legislative salaries

As of 2013, members of the Delaware legislature are paid $42,750 per year. Legislators are allowed a maximum of $7,334 in expenses annually.[24]

When sworn in

See also: When state legislators assume office after a general election

Delaware legislators assume office the day after their election.

List of current members

Senators must be citizens of the United States, have lived in Delaware for three years and been a resident of their respective district for at least one year preceding their election and must be at least 27 years old by the time of their election.

Current members, Delaware State Senate
District Representative Party Assumed office
1 Harris McDowell Electiondot.png Democratic 1977
2 Margaret Rose Henry Electiondot.png Democratic 1995
3 Robert Marshall Electiondot.png Democratic 1977
4 Gregory Lavelle Ends.png Republican 2013
5 Catherine Cloutier Ends.png Republican 2001
6 Ernesto B. Lopez Ends.png Republican 2013
7 Patricia Blevins Electiondot.png Democratic 1991
8 David Sokola Electiondot.png Democratic 1991
9 Karen Peterson Electiondot.png Democratic 2003
10 Bethany Hall-Long Electiondot.png Democratic 2009
11 Bryan Townsend Electiondot.png Democratic 2013
12 Nicole Poore Electiondot.png Democratic 2013
13 David McBride Electiondot.png Democratic 1981
14 Bruce Ennis Electiondot.png Democratic 2007
15 David G. Lawson Ends.png Republican 2011
16 Colin Bonini Ends.png Republican 1995
17 Brian Bushweller Electiondot.png Democratic 2009
18 F. Gary Simpson Ends.png Republican 1999
19 Brian Pettyjohn Ends.png Republican 2013
20 Gerald Hocker Ends.png Republican 2013
21 Bryant Richardson Ends.png Republican 2015

Standing Senate Committees

See also: Joint committees, Delaware General Assembly

The Delaware Senate has 23 standing committees.


Partisan balance 1992-2013

Who Runs the States Project
See also: Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States and Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States, Delaware
Partisan breakdown of the Delaware legislature from 1992-2013

Throughout every year from 1992-2013, the Democratic Party was the majority in the Delaware State Senate. The Delaware State Senate is 1 of 16 state senates that was Democratic for more than 80 percent of the years between 1992-2013. During the final five years of the study, Delaware was under Democratic trifectas.

Across the country, there were 541 Democratic and 517 Republican state senates from 1992 to 2013.

Over the course of the 22-year study, state governments became increasingly more partisan. At the outset of the study period (1992), 18 of the 49 states with partisan legislatures had single-party trifectas and 31 states had divided governments. In 2013, only 13 states had divided governments, while single-party trifectas held sway in 36 states, the most in the 22 years studied.

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Office of the Governor of Delaware, the Delaware State Senate and the Delaware House of Representatives from 1992-2013. Partisan composition of Delaware state government(1992-2013).PNG

SQLI and partisanship

To read the full report on the State Quality of Life Index (SQLI) in PDF form, click here.

The chart below depicts the partisanship of the Delaware state government and the state's SQLI ranking for the years studied. For the SQLI, the states were ranked from 1-50, with 1 being the best and 50 the worst. For twelve out of the twenty years observed during the study, Delaware ranked in the top-10 of the SQLI ranking. The state dropped out of the top-10 for a period between 1996 and 1999, hitting the rank of 16th before climbing back into the top-10 for eight more years. It again dropped out of the top-10 in 2008 and has remained out of the top rankings since then. Delaware has never had a Republican trifecta, but has had a Democratic trifecta since 2009. In the state’s longest period of divided government, there was a Democratic governor, a Democratic state senate and a Republican state house. Delaware achieved its highest SQLI ranking (3rd) in 2003 and 2004 under divided government, and its lowest ranking (20th) in 2012 under a Democratic trifecta.

  • SQLI average with Democratic trifecta: 16.75
  • SQLI average with Republican trifecta: N/A
  • SQLI average with divided government: 7.94
Chart displaying the partisanship of Delaware government from 1992-2013 and the State Quality of Life Index (SQLI).

See also

External links


  1. Delaware State Legislature, "Senate term limits," accessed December 16, 2013
  2. U.S. Census Bureau, "Population Distribution and Change: 2000 to 2010," accessed January 6, 2014
  3. U.S. Census Bureau, "States Ranked by Population: 2000," April 2, 2001
  4. WDEL, "Delaware's finances likely to be a major focus at Leg Hall in 2015," January 23, 2015
  5. delaware.newszap.com, "Delaware lawmakers to revisit guns, minimum wage," accessed January 15, 2014
  6. Beaumont Enterprise, "Budget, guns among issues facing Del. lawmakers," January 8, 2013
  7. Delaware First Media, "Legislators begin to form 2012 agenda," January 8, 2012
  8. 2010 session dates for Delaware legislature
  9. National Conference of State Legislatures "State Experiences with Annual and Biennial Budgeting," updated April 2011
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 National Association of State Budget Officers "Budget Processes in the States, Summer 2008," accessed February 21, 2014
  11. State of Delaware Office of Management and Budget, "Budget and Accounting Policy Manual: Chapter 3 - Delaware's Accounting Framework," accessed April 14, 2014
  12. Pew Charitable Trusts, "States’ Use of Cost-Benefit Analysis," July 29, 2013
  13. 13.0 13.1 U.S. Public Interest Research Group, "Following the Money 2014 Report," accessed April 15, 2014
  14. Sunlight Foundation, "Ten Principles for Opening Up Government Information," accessed June 16, 2013
  15. Follow the Money: "Delaware Senate 2010 Campaign Contributions"
  16. Follow the Money, "Delaware 2008 Candidates," accessed July 8, 2013
  17. Follow the Money, "Delaware 2006 Candidates," accessed July 8, 2013
  18. Follow the Money, "Delaware 2004 Candidates," accessed July 8, 2013
  19. Follow the Money, "Delaware 2002 Candidates," accessed July 8, 2013
  20. Follow the Money, "Delaware 2000 Candidates," accessed July 8, 2013
  21. Sussex Countian, "Redistricting looms in 2011 General Assembly session," January 12, 2011
  22. The Republic, "Delaware lawmakers approve legislative redistricting plan for state House, Senate," June 30, 2011
  23. Delaware Online, "General Assembly's pace picks up in late-night flurry," July 1, 2011
  24. NCSL.org, "2012 State Legislator Compensation and Per Diem Table," accessed March 18, 2013