This winter, the Virginia legislature approved more than 600 new laws. Below is a summary of about two dozen of the most high profile new laws that take effect on July 1.
Alcohol To Go from Restaurants
In light of COVID-19, restaurants are allowed to sell and deliver mixed beverages for off-premise consumption. The law is in effect for one year while a working group studies whether to make off-premises sales permanent.
Pet Shop Regulations
No one who has been convicted of animal cruelty can work at a pet shop. Pet shops must obtain a signed statement from a purchaser or adopter of a dog that they also have not been convicted of animal cruelty.
Abolish the death penalty
Abolishes the death penalty for anyone who was sentenced to death or anyone who would be sentenced to death on or after July 1, 2021.
Legalizes the possession of marijuana up to one ounce for persons 21 years or older.
Ban police use of facial recognition
Local police departments or campus police are not allowed to use facial recognition technoogy.
Open criminal investigative files
Allows the public to request files from a non-ongoing criminal investigation, and gives public bodies 60 days to provide the files.
Removes rebuttable presumption on bail
Puts the burden on judicial officials to determine if a person charged with a crime should be detained prior to trial. Prior to the new law, the person arrested would have to prove why they should not be detained.
Required five-day in-person learning
Starting with the 2021-22 school year, requires every local school division to offer in-person learning for five days a week.
Schools can choose to conduct remote learning when severe weather or other emergency situations have resulted in the physical school building having to be closed for the day.
Get Skilled, Get a Job, Give Back (G3)
An initiative of Governor Northam, the G3 program provides tuition-free community college to low and middle-income students who pursue jobs in high-demand fields, such as technology and cybersecurity.
Enslaved Ancestors College Access Scholarship and Memorial Program
Applies to Longwood, UVA, VCU, VMI and W&M. Requires institutions to identify and memorialize enslaved individuals who labored on the institution’s grounds and set up a scholarship or economic development program for individuals / communities with a historical connection to slavery. The institutions cannot use state funds or tuition fee increases.
Require ‘cultural competency’ training
Teachers pursuing new licenses or license renewals must complete cultural competency training, and teachers instructing in history or social sciences must complete instruction in African-American history. Teacher, principal and superintendent evaluations must include an evaluation on cultural competency.
Drop boxes for absentee votes
Requires localities to establish drop-off locations for absentee ballots.
Sunday absentee voting
Allows localities to offer in-person absentee voting on Sundays.
Prohibition against releasing of balloons
It is unlawful for anyone age 16 or older, including corporations, to intentionally release balloons into the air.
Increased Litter Fine
Increases the fine for disposing of litter or trash on public or private property from $250 to $500.
Ban Skill Games
Skill games, a form of electronic gaming machines often seen in convenience stores and gas stations, will no longer be allowed. In 2020, skill games were given a one-year extension in order to provide revenues to support the state’s response to COVID-19.
Possession of guns by persons convicted of assaulting a family member
A person who has been convicted of assault and battery of a family or household member cannot purchase, possess or transport a firearm for three years.
Guns banned at polling places
No one is allowed to have a gun within 40 feet of a polling place.
Repeal ban on abortion benefits in health plans offered under state exchange
Abortion coverage is now mandated for health plans offered under the health benefits exchange in Virginia. The exchange offers insurance to Virginians who are self-employed or do not have access to insurance through employers.
Freedom to choose your pharmacy
Insurance companies and health care plans cannot require a covered individual to use a particular pharmacy when filling their prescriptions.
Herbal Medical Cannabis
Expands Virginia’s Medical Cannabis Program by allowing pharmaceutical processors to produce and distribute medical cannabis in an herbal form. Prior to the new law, pharmaceutical processors could only process cannabis into oils and tinctures.
Makes discrimination on the basis of disability unlawful.
Virginia Overtime Wage Act
Requires more worker-friendly overtime payment for certain hourly workers and salary non-exempt workers.
Worker’s compensation for COVID-19
Provides worker’s compensation for a death or disability directly linked to a COVID-19 diagnosis provided certain criteria is met.
Drivers must change lanes when passing a cyclist if the lane is not wide enough to allow at least 3 feet of distance between the driver and the cyclist.