The Senate passed an amended version of a proposed Jessica's Law that would allow repeat child sex offenders to be sentenced to life in prison, without a chance for release. That bill was back in the House, with an amendment changing the term to 25 years to life.

The House passed and sent to Gov. Ruth Ann Minner a bill requiring potential sellers of residential property to test for radon -- a naturally occurring gas that can cause cancer -- prior to offering the property for sale. Results would have to be disclosed.

Two bills designed to give owners of manufactured homes more protection from big rent increases are headed to Minner. The bills emerged earlier this week after a compromise between park owners and people who lease lots.

A bill allowing Kent County to impose a building permit surcharge on new construction to help pay for new schools was approved by the House and sent to Minner.

A measure lowering the threshold from 0.10 to 0.08 for operating a vessel or boat under the influence of alcohol also was headed for Minner's desk.

DOVER -- After months of delay, the House easily passed a Senate bill late Friday to mandate full-day kindergarten in public schools by 2008. An expected battle did not erupt, as the measure received little opposition and much praise on the House floor.

The House added two amendments, which will need Senate approval before moving to Gov. Ruth Ann Minner for final completion -- which was expected early this morning.

The first amendment provided that the bill will only become effective for a school district after the local school board approves the program. The second requires each district to maintain a separate half-day program as long as 18 students enroll.

As the session moved past midnight, the Senate passed a $3.11 billion budget just a few minutes before the new fiscal year began at midnight. The vote was 15-6, a vote that came after sometimes emotional debate centering on the growth of the budget and the controversial 5.5 percent pay raises it hands legislators. That bill moved to the House, where adoption also is expected after similar debate.

Sen. David Sokola, D-Newark North, has been working on bringing full-day kindergarten to Delaware for 16 years and can almost see the end of his quest. Sokola said he has no problems with the amendments and was confident the bill would repass the Senate before this morning's end of the 2006 legislative session.

"The key is local support," he said. "I think the evidence shows that there will be support for this ... and schools will feel the pressure to get this done."

Rep. Melanie George Marshall, D-Bear, said all-day kindergarten will cost the state an additional $35.5 million to provide needed classrooms and an additional $22.2 million in state support a year for operating costs.

Lobbyists scurried through the halls, cell phones at their ears, giving terse status reports to clients. Others pecked out messages on Blackberries or glad-handed legislators, staffers and hangers-on.

This was the night when business finally got done or didn't get done at all. And most in the hall were keeping their powder dry early on. Actual work started late after a number of northern lawmakers got hung up in beach traffic on their way to Dover. And the House, after passing a slew of relatively inconsequential bills, took an hourlong break for supper.

As lawmakers headed toward the early morning hours, they still had heavy business ahead -- the operating budget, a $597 million capital budget and a $50 million Grant-In-Aid budget to pass. A battle was looming on raises for legislators in the budget.

Sen. Dori Connor, R-Penn Acres, said she gave the 9 percent raise she received last year to charity and plans to do the same with her raise this time around. However, she said she was voting against the package because of the raise. Connor cited her late husband, Sen. Robert Connor, who voted against the budget in 1989 because of an inequity that gave lawmakers an inordinately large pension hike. That budget, unlike the one that cleared the Senate, was changed.

But Sen. Charles Copeland, R-West Farm, said that's not the case for Mark Brainard, Minner's chief of staff, whose salary is now equivalent to a Tier Three Cabinet official -- a raise from $112,123 to $123,100.

"Sen. [Nancy] Cook [D-Kenton] said that governors set pay when they bring on a chief of staff. ... He's been here what, three or four years?" Copeland said. "I would say a raise of 10 percent is a little bit much."

Some lawmakers, like Copeland and Sen. Gary Simpson, R-Milford, said the state needs to take steps to rein in overall government growth to shield the state against future economic downturns.

The budget fireworks came long after the evening began shortly before 5 p.m. Early on, it was light, chummy and a bit overwhelming for Carolyn Cohee of Milford, who accompanied her husband, Milford Board of Education member Roland Cohee Jr., to Legislative Hall.

"They would probably spend their money a lot more wisely if they bought laptops and did it all electronically with all the paper they've wasted tonight," Carolyn Cohee said.

She found it disconcerting that there were as many side conversations going on along the edges of the legislative chambers than there was debate on legislation.

Her son, Roland III, was a little taken aback by it all, too. "I don't understand it," he said -- but he'll learn. Next school year he'll be president of his Milford Middle School class.

Leaving the spending bills until the last few hours of the last day of its six-monthlong session prompted grumbling from citizen groups and even a few lawmakers. House and Senate clerks also grumbled Friday night at the long time it seemed to be taking for their respective houses to take up the budget bills.

Lawmakers still faced possibly contentious votes on the Bond Bill, which pays for state construction and highway projects, and the Grant-in-Aid budget that provides money for fire departments, senior centers and a host of community service agencies and events.

Also uncertain is the $20 million line of credit from the state to the Christina School District. Lawmakers must decide if it should remain in place, or whether Christina should be forced to borrow from private markets and pay interest.

The money is to help the district recover from a $12 million budget deficit that already has required layoffs of 75 teachers and scores of support staff.

Jennifer "JJ" Davis, the state's director of Management and Budget, was briefing lawmakers on the situation late Friday afternoon, saying the state needs more time to evaluate options. Rep. William Oberle Jr., R-Beechers Lot, whose district includes Christina, said he thinks the state should carry the loans over until the decision can be reached.

"We need to make sure they have the money to keep their doors open," he said. "I understand the position of the people who think they should seek a loan, with interest, from the private sector, but we need to do our due diligence."

Venables said Thursday he couldn't muster the support needed within the Democratic caucus to bring Senate Bill 362 to the floor for debate and a vote. However, Minner said she was going to continue pushing for a vote and has promised to bring the General Assembly back every day between the close of session and November election until the issue is resolved.

"Look, everyone agrees something needs to be done with this," Oberle said. "But this isn't the bill. This is one of the worst pieces of legislation I've ever seen. It is too vague and leaves too much authority with the secretary of labor."

Staff reporter Mike Billington contributed to this report. Contact Patrick Jackson at 678-4274 or pjackson@delawareonline.com . Contact J.L. Miller at 678-4271 or jlmiller@delawareonline.com . Contact Ginger Gibson at 324-2866 or gigibson@delawareonline.com .

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