Del. Simon: Here’s What July 1 Brings in New Laws

Virginia’s newest laws took effect on July 1, 2023. These laws, passed during the 2023 legislative session, cover a wide range of issues that impact the lives of Falls Church residents every day including issues like pedestrian safety, background checks for school staff, health and human services, jury duty, online age verification, landlord tenant law, and how we treat people housed in Virginia prisons. Here is a breakdown of some new laws as you go about your daily routine.

Whether you are driving on local roads to get errands done or navigating Virginia’s seemingly always-under-construction highways, you will want to take note of two new laws regarding pedestrian and first responder safety. 

Virginias are now required to stop for pedestrians at clearly marked crosswalks, regular pedestrian crossings, and any intersection where the speed limit is 35 miles per hour or less. Virginia’s existing “Move Over” law, which was initially intended to protect first responders operating on highways shoulders, has been expanded, obliging drivers to change lanes or slow down when possible for all stopped vehicles on the side of the road with flashing lights or flares. 

Finally, cars fitted with after-market modifications that make your front headlights appear blue can no longer be operated legally on Virginia roads, so you may need to put the boring old white lights back on your car. 

Several new laws that went into effect this week were designed to improve the health and safety of children and teens here in Virginia. 

After learning that Fairfax County school officials failed to receive notice of the arrest of a middle school teacher who’d been arrested and charged in Chesterfield County because local police sent an e-mail to a non-working e-mail address, background checks for school staff throughout Virginia have been strengthened. Each division superintendent is now required to designate an employee as the division safety official and provide updated contact information to the Virginia Center for School and Campus Safety. This will enable the sharing of information about arrests and convictions across jurisdictions within the Commonwealth and even across state lines, ensuring a more comprehensive background check system.

Another new law requires health insurers, health maintenance organizations, and corporations providing health care coverage subscription contracts to provide coverage for hearing aids and related services for children 18 years of age or younger that includes one hearing aid per hearing-impaired ear, up to a cost of $1,500, every 24 months.

The online landscape will also see some adjustments. Pornography websites will be required to implement an age verification system to restrict access to their content, ensuring compliance with age restrictions and protecting minors.

If you are a tenant worried about rising rents, you’ll now be entitled to greater notice of rent increases to give you more time to seek a new housing alternative. Landlords who own four or more units will have to provide written notice of any rent increase to their tenants at least 60 days in advance, granting tenants more time to adjust to potential changes in their housing expenses.

Families of individuals with developmental disabilities receiving waiver services will have more options to draw down their benefits in the manner that best suits their unique needs and circumstances thanks to amendments made to several waiver programs.

Virginians with disabilities will now be paid the same minimum wage as every other worker participating in the labor force, with the abolition of Virginia’s sub-minimum wage this week. 

If you are called for jury duty this year, your daily stipend will have nearly doubled with an increased allowance of $50 per day, up from the previous $30.

If you’ve had to endure sexual harassment in the workplace and negotiated a settlement with your employer, you can no longer be required to sign a nondisclosure or confidentiality agreement that has the purpose or effect of concealing the details of your claim from the public.   

In a step toward abolishing solitary confinement in Virginia, prisons will be required to provide incarcerated individuals in solitary confinement with a minimum of four hours per day dedicated to “out-of-cell programmatic interventions or other congregate activities.” This law aims to ensure that those in solitary confinement have meaningful human interaction and access to programs that promote their well-being and rehabilitation.

Virginians who employ certified midwives to help them with their pregnancy and the delivery of their children will now receive care that can include the prescription of and administration of drugs and devices within the scope of their practice, improving the quality of care one can receive. 

Lastly, in a nod to Virginia’s cultural heritage, the Chincoteague Pony from Chincoteague Island has been designated as the official pony of the Commonwealth. This symbolic recognition celebrates the unique contribution of these ponies to Virginia’s identity 

When July 1, 2023 arrived, Virginians experienced the impact of these new state laws throughout their day. From safer roads for pedestrians to stronger protections for vulnerable populations and enhanced rights for individuals affected by local government.