Del. Governor Uses Veto for Second Time This Summer - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Del. Governor Uses Veto for Second Time This Summer

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(Photo: WBOC) (Photo: WBOC)

DOVER, Del. (WBOC) - For the second time this summer, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell has used his power of the veto.

The bill that passed in the final day of this year's legislative session was vetoed Tuesday morning. It would have made it a felony for a health professional to have intentional sexual contact with a patient. 

That crime is currently a misdemeanor. Specifically the bill made it a felony, with harsher penalties, for health professionals to intentionally have sexual contact with someone in the course of providing professional health services to them and that wording is, in part, the reason the governor gave for vetoing the bill.

According to the statement with his veto, Markell had a number of issues with HB 130. He considered various parts vague.

"House Bill 130 does not distinguish between situations where there is consent and no consent... (nor) account for the fact that a doctor-patient relationship may be different in one context... than another," the statement said.

It went on to point out other parts the governor thought were vague, too.    

"This legislation does not define or otherwise limit the meaning of "in the course of treatment," meaning that the law could be enforced in unpredictable and inconsistent ways."

Markell also said Delaware law already addresses illegal behavior by health care professionals.

State Rep. Ruth Briggs King, R-Georgetown, was a co-sponsor on the bill. She was surprised by the veto.

"I was a little taken back by that, because usually if there's going to be a veto, it's something that's controversial. So, you have an idea of what to expect or some rationale for that," she said.

She said usually lawmakers will hear ahead of time a veto may be coming, but that was not the case here.

WBOC asked Briggs King about the governor's concerns - like no distinction between consensual and non-consensual contact.

"If you're going to have a relationship that goes beyond a professional relationship with a client or with your patient, then it's probably time that you rethink whether you're going to be their provider or not," said Briggs King.

The bill's prime sponsor called the veto unbelievable in a statement on her Facebook page.

There is certainly the potential for an override vote here. The bill passed unanimously through both the House and the Senate.

This is the second time this summer Markell has vetoed a bill. He also did it back in July.

That bill allowed students to opt-out of the state's Smarter Balanced Assessment standardized test. It was controversial, but it did pass the general assembly.

At the time Markell said the bill was not part of the solution to the issues people have with standardized testing.

Its sponsors say parents want the opt-out option. They plan to push for an override vote.

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