Next Wednesday, on July 1, most of the new laws passed by the Virginia General Assembly in January, February and March of this year and signed by Gov. Ralph Northam in April will become law. Some of them will have more of an impact on your lives, dear readers, than others.
When you wake up and leave your house July 1, 2020 the sky may not be any bluer, and the grass may not be any greener, but you are more likely to be able to find an electric vehicle charging station in your homeowner association’s parking lot, thanks to new legislation that prevents your association from prohibiting their installation, provided the installation meets some minimum safety standards.
When you pull out of the parking lot, you’ll need to be more careful of pedestrians, now that all drivers must come to a complete stop when yielding to pedestrians in a crosswalk. You can also get a ticket for crossing into a bike lane to pass another vehicle, so pack a little extra patience.
If you are out house hunting, same sex couples will be able to fill out a rental application listing themselves as married without fear of being denied a housing opportunity, thanks to passage of the Virginia Values Act which prohibits discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations based on sexual orientation. In addition, the Act creates causes of action for wrongful termination or discrimination in employment and public accommodations on the basis of race, religion, national origin, status as veteran, pregnancy and related medical conditions, and gender identity.
Black women won’t have to worry about what their boss thinks about the way they decided to wear their hair, as the General Assembly explicitly stated that discrimination based on hairstyles associated with a particular race is a form of prohibited racial discrimination.
Health care providers and counselors will no longer be able to use conversion therapy (with the aim to ostensibly convert an LGBT person to “straight”) on minors. And the Department of Education begins work on a state-wide policy for the treatment of transgender students in schools across the Commonwealth.
You will have 48 hours to report any firearms you own lost or stolen once you realize they are missing. You won’t be able to purchase a replacement firearm, even if it’s at a gun show or through a private sale, without first going through a background check, and you will only be able to purchase one hand gun per month, once again, here in Virginia.
Anyone who recklessly leaves an unsecured firearm around a minor will be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor, and you will be able to go to court to get a special type of restraining order that removes firearms from someone who is deemed by a magistrate to pose a risk to themselves or others.
College-age kids who grew up here in Virginia will be eligible for in-state tuition regardless of their immigration or citizenship status provided that they have attended high school in Virginia for at least two years.
Women will no longer have to undergo a medically unnecessary ultrasound before an abortion and we repealed the TRAP laws that restricted access to abortion clinics.
If you report an overdose (a “Good Samaritan Law”) or are under the influence yourself, you will be protected from arrest or prosecution when you seek emergency medical care.
Voting is getting easier. You will no longer be denied a ballot if you don’t have a photo ID and you might even have the day off as Election Day is now a state holiday. If you don’t have the day off, you no longer have to have an excuse to request an absentee ballot — you can simply request it.
For my constituents who are animal lovers, tethering animals outside has some new restrictions to protect pets from being left outside in harsh conditions. You’ll also be able to have a pet cremated and buried with a loved one.
If you’re a spouse of a deceased veteran, you can now obtain a new copy their death certificate when applying for service-connected benefits.
If you’ve been convicted of a drug-related felony, you can’t be denied food stamps assuming that you are otherwise eligible.
The Virginia Department of Social Services in coordination with the Department of Health and the Sexual & Domestic Violence Action Alliance will administer the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Prevention Fund aimed at establishing prevention programs.
You won’t be subject to criminal charges for simple possession of small quantities of marijuana.
This is just a short list of new laws that go into effect next week. Some of the bigger issues you may remember hearing about have what’s called a delayed enactment date. So the minimum wage is going up, eventually to $15 an hour, but it doesn’t start moving that direction until May 1, 2021.
(Del. Marcus Simon represents the 53rd Virginia House district that includes the City of Falls Church)