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Delaware Senate Democrats

Bipartisan legislation introduced to require reconfirmation of Governor’s cabinet every four years

April 18, 2024

DOVER – Future cabinet secretaries, commissioners and directors would need to be reconfirmed at the start of each Governor’s term of office under legislation introduced Thursday by Democratic and Republican leaders of the Delaware General Assembly.

Sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Dave Sokola, House Speaker Valerie Longhurst, Senate Minority Leader Gerald Hocker and House Minority Leader Michael Ramone, Senate Bill 15 and Senate Bill 16 would begin a two-year legislative process to give Delaware voters a greater voice in the leadership and direction of Delaware’s largest state agencies.

“I want to be absolutely clear that our goal here is to create a more responsive state government that best serves the needs of Delawareans,” said Sen. Sokola, the prime sponsor of both SB 15 and SB 16.

“By requiring some of the most powerful, non-elected leaders of this state to essentially reapply for their jobs once every four years, the Delaware General Assembly – and the people who elect us – will have an opportunity to consider both the prospective qualifications of each new job candidate, as well as their actual performance once they been on the job for a few years,” he said. “That’s the same process each of us as elected leaders have to follow, and I believe strongly that having the Governor’s cabinet undergo a reconfirmation every few years will help ensure that our state agencies are being led by highly capable people willing to be held accountable for their decisions and judged on the merits of their performance.”

Under current state law, members of the Governor’s cabinet are required to be confirmed by the Delaware Senate only when they are first nominated to the position. Cabinet members who remain in the same position entering a Governor’s second term – or continue in the same job from one administration to the next – can do so without sitting for a subsequent public confirmation hearing.

SB 15 would change that process by amending the Delaware Constitution to require each holdover cabinet member to be reconfirmed at the beginning of each term of the Governor. SB 15 also would enshrine residency requirements for cabinet-level positions in the Constitution rather than in code where those rules are currently delineated.

Constitutional amendments require a two-thirds majority in each chamber of the Legislature and must pass in identical forms in consecutive General Assemblies to become law. No signature from the governor is required.

“There are wonderful people in the Governor’s cabinet, there is no doubt about that, but holding our government officials to the highest standard is imperative,” Speaker Longhurst said.

“As elected officials, our actions represent the trust our constituents put in us with their vote. We must always work to move our state in a positive direction and meet the ever-changing needs of the people who live here,” she said. “By requiring the Governor’s cabinet to undergo reconfirmation, we are increasing accountability, and ensuring that the needs of Delawareans are reflected in those who serve them.”

Also introduced Thursday by Democratic and Republican leadership from both chambers, SB 16 would change Delaware Code to reflect the new requirement for 16 cabinet-level positions, contingent on the second leg of SB 15 being enacted by the 153rd General Assembly in 2025 or 2026.

“Government accountability is important and requiring the most powerful appointed officials in the executive branch to be confirmed every four years strengthens Delaware’s commitment to responsible government,” Sen. Hocker said. “Delawareans should expect that the people charged with leading our state agencies have earned their appointments through documented experience and positive work performance.”

SB 16 also would amend Delaware Code to reflect the long-standing practice of setting the annual salary for members of the Governor’s cabinet in the annual operating budget, while making clear that the residency requirement for those positions currently in code has been moved to the Delaware Constitution by SB 15.

“Our tripartite government works best when the three branches – executive, legislative, and judicial – act as checks against the powers and competence of the others,” Rep. Ramone said. “Given the regulatory power many executive agencies wield, these bills represent a needed reform that promises to improve accountability to the citizens we all work for.”

Both SB 15 and SB 16 have been assigned to the Senate Executive Committee.