Local Commentary

Delegate Marcus Simon’s Richmond Report

This historic Virginia General Assembly sworn in on January 13th, 2020 will meet again for at least two more special sessions prior to the end of the year. We’ll likely meet at the beginning of August to appropriate funds made available to states and localities under the American Rescue Plan and again to adopt redistricting plans drafted by the Redistricting Commission on which I serve. In the meantime, in addition to new laws that took effect July 1st of last year, March 1st of this year, and May 1st of this year, many more bills passed during our first special session of 2021 go into effect on July 1, 2021 — approximately two weeks from now.

I got into the weeds on Marijuana legalization in my April column, so as a reminder, starting on July 1st, adults over the age of 21 can legally possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana for personal use. You will also be allowed to grow up to four plants per household, provided that the plants are labeled, not in public sight, and out of the reach of anyone underage.

For those that like to order take-out, you’ll still be able to order those special cocktails and other alcoholic beverages to-go as we extended the original legislation allowing restaurants to include this service on their menus.

Pet lovers may feel reassured to learn that anyone who has been convicted of animal cruelty is prohibited from owning, operating, managing, breeding, or even staffing a pet shop beginning July 1st.

For those who don’t like lawyers, beginning in two weeks you can file a civil action for personal injury or wrongful death in the General District Courts for up to a maximum of $50,000, a much larger number than before. Litigants are able to appear without counsel in the General District Court.

On the other hand, we’ve made more jobs for attorneys in appellate practice, creating an automatic right of appeal in most cases, and increasing the number of judges on the Virginia Court of Appeals (from 11 to 17) to handle the increased caseload.

Virginia will become the first state in the south to abolish the death penalty on July 1st.

Electric vehicle owners will be able to take advantage of a rebate program for the purchase or lease of new and used electric vehicles, administered by the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy.

A person who has been convicted of assault and battery of a family member will be prohibited from purchasing, possessing, or transporting a firearm. There will be a process to have this right restored provided that there isn’t another subsequent disqualifying conviction.

For those who are members of community organizations that use charitable gaming to raise funds, you’ll still be able to play bingo and hold raffles with some organizations being exempt from the required permit application and fees.

You’ll be able to continue to take advantage of telemedicine opportunities as the Board of Medical Assistance Services will amend the state plan to provide payment for and the ability to use remote patient monitoring services. This means that health insurance providers will be able to cover these telehealth services. Health insurance providers will be allowed to offer coverage for abortions in any qualified health insurance plan that is sold or offered for sale through a health benefits exchange in Virginia.

Virginia’s Dream Act will allow students who meet the criteria to be deemed eligible for in-state tuition regardless of their citizenship or immigration status. They shall be afforded the same educational benefits, including state-administered financial assistance programs for a public institution of higher education, as any other individual who is eligible for in-state tuition. ​

The Get Skilled, Get a Job, Give Back Fund and Program (G3 Fund)​ will require the Virginia Community College System to establish the G3 Program to provide financial assistance to certain low-income and middle-income students who are enrolled in a program at a public institution of higher education that leads to an occupation in a high-demand field.​
Parents with kids in K-12 will be happy to learn that the total number and type of required SOL assessments will be reduced.

This is just a sampling of the good legislation that passed and will become effective July 1st. For a larger summary of legislation, check out dls.virginia.gov where you can view the Department of Legislative Services’ In Due Course.