Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam highlighted new laws that took effect yesterday as Virginia began its new fiscal year. The governor hailed his close work with members of the General Assembly to take forward-looking and historic steps to protect vulnerable Virginians, increase equity, and position the Commonwealth for future growth and success.
New laws include common sense gun safety measures, worker protections, improvements to voting accessibility, criminal justice reforms, and measures that advance the rights of women and the LGBTQ community.
Governor Northam also signed legislation that removes discriminatory and racist language from Virginia’s books, and includes actions to fight climate change and dramatically boost Virginia’s renewable energy production.
Gov. Northam said yesterday, “From protecting civil rights, to expanding voting access, to supporting workers, we have made generational progress on some of the most critical issues of our time. With these new laws, Virginia will be an even better place to live, work, visit, and raise a family.”
Key measures that went into effect on July 1 include:
- Advancing historic justice and equity with new laws that give localities authority over Confederate war memorials, remove discriminatory language from the Acts of Assembly, and establish a commission to study slavery in Virginia and subsequent racial and economic discrimination. New measures also ban discrimination based on hair.
- Gun safety laws that reinstate the limit on handgun purchases to one per month, implement background checks on all firearm sales, require the reporting of lost or stolen firearms and establish an Extreme Risk Protective Order.
- Criminal justice reforms that include decriminalizing marijuana, raising the felony larceny threshold, and permanently ending the practice of driver’s license suspensions for unpaid court fines.
- Expanding access to the ballot box by allowing early voting 45 days prior to an election without a stated excuse, extending in-person polling hours, and making Election Day a state holiday by repealing Lee-Jackson Day.
- Increasing protections for LGBTQ+ Virginians with the Virginia Values Act, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, employment, public spaces, and credit applications. New laws also ban the harmful practice of “conversion therapy” for minors, increase protections for transgender students in public schools, expand the definition of a hate crime, and make it easier for LGBTQ+ individuals to obtain a birth certificate that matches their gender identity.
- Restoring reproductive rights by repealing medically-unnecessary restrictions on women’s healthcare. The Reproductive Health Protection Act repeals Virginia’s mandatory ultrasound law and 24-hour waiting period prior to abortion, and rolls back politically motivated “TRAP” restrictions on women’s health centers.