Hundreds of new laws went into effect on July 1, 2019 across the Commonwealth of Virginia, on topics ranging from public safety to transportation, health care and the environment, to education and taxation.
Some have been covered extensively, like the economic incentives that will facilitate the deal to bring Amazon HQ2 to the Commonwealth. Others have received less coverage, but may still have a noticeable impact on your day to day interactions in Falls Church and environs.
You may have seen signs in local convenience stores where tobacco products are sold over the last several weeks notifying customers that effective on July 1, you must be 21 years old to buy tobacco and vaping products, up from age 18. The General Assembly continues to step up efforts to keep tobacco and vaping products away from children.
Another new law requires local school boards to ban tobacco and other nicotine products from all school property and on school buses and at school sponsored events off campus.
Speaking of signs and customers, look for those fun and catchy sandwich board signs designed to draw customers in to restaurants on local sidewalks soon.
Restaurants are now allowed to advertise their “happy hour” specials with names like “Thirsty Thursday” and include prices and discount details to customers.
Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control rules previously had prohibited the practice. But Geoff Tracy, owner of Chef Geoff’s in Vienna, filed a lawsuit challenging the restrictions as an unconstitutional restriction on free speech.
Signs aren’t the only thing showing up on local sidewalks these days, as dockless electric scooters are proliferating in the region. Effective July 1, Virginia updated its definition of a motorized scooter and limits them to speeds of 20 m.p.h and a weight of 100 pounds.
Scooters are now allowed in bike lanes, required to be equipped with lights, and riders are required to yield the right of way to pedestrians and cannot ride more than two abreast.
Localities will be given greater authority to regulate scooter vendor companies, like Bird, Lyft and Lime, effective July 1, 2020.
Parents of young children now need to make sure they strap their kids into rear-facing car seats until their 2nd birthday under a new law sponsored by Fairfax Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn. Before July 1 the law only required car seats to be rear facing for kids under a year old.
Virginia becomes the 10th state to raise threshold to age 2, at the urging of groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Centers for Disease Control.
All civil penalties collected for violations of the new law will go to the Child Restraint Device Special Fund, which is used to distribute child restraint devices to applicants who need a child restraint device but can’t afford one.
It is now easier for same-sex couples in Virginia seeking to start families here to do so thanks to changes to Virginia’s surrogacy laws championed by Delegate Richard P. “Rip” Sullivan.
Sullivan sponsored “Jacob’s Law” which replaces the terms “husband” and “wife” with the gender-neutral ‘’spouse” to reflect the legalization of same-sex marriage, and eliminates the need for prospective parents to go through the process of adopting children conceived from a donated embryo.
Virginia continues to make progress in the area of medical marijuana, allowing medical cannabis products to be dispensed at school by school nurses. Nurse practitioners and physician assistants now have the ability to issue written certifications for medical cannabis patients, and patients unable to get their medical cannabis can now appoint someone else to pick it up on their behalf without being guilty of illegal drug possession.
If you’ve ever thought about becoming an amateur bee-keeper, this is the year to give it a shot. The General Assembly approved $125,000 in funding for a Beehive Distribution Program to provide up to three free beehives and equipment to anyone age 18 or older who applies and registers as a beekeeper with the Virginia Department of Agriculture. The number of beehives in Virginia decreased 50 percent in recent years.
Virginia residents whose property spans more than one jurisdiction will no longer get to choose which jurisdiction’s schools their children will attend. Under a bill this delegate carried at the request of the Falls Church City and Arlington County School systems, families now must send their children to the schools in the locality where their dwelling physically sits.
Finally, I successfully updated Virginia’s Revenge Pornography Law, which I first introduced in 2014, to include “deep fakes” or digitally altered images and videos designed to make it look as though someone is engaged in pornographic acts. This is a new and troubling form of harassment that is unfortunately proliferating.
At my initiative, Virginia became the first state in the country to outlaw this activity.