New Laws Take Effect July 1, 2021

On Thursday, many bills approved during the General Assembly Session and signed by Governor Ralph Northam will officially be law in the Commonwealth.

Here's a list of some of the new laws..

RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA

Virginia is the first Southern state to leagalize recreational marijuana, with retail sales slated to start in 2024

Adults 21 and older will legally be allowed to have up to one ounce of marijuana for recreational use in private. People will also be allowed to grow up to four marijuana plants in your home, keeping them away from children and clearly labeled.

Anyone possessing more than an ounce, but less than a pound, could be charged with a crime.

See FAQs about the new laws here, courtesy of Virginia NORML, a marijuana advocacy group.

VOTING LAWS

Virginia is making it easier for people to vote early or absentee before Election Day.

Two new laws, effective July 1, will allow registrars to offer in-person absentee voting on Sundays, (each local Registrar will decide to offer Sunday Voting or not) and will remove the witness signature requirement on absentee ballots during a public health emergency.

New laws for accessibility, including curbside voting for tthe disabled and requiring all localities to have a tool to allow voters with a visual impairment or print disability to electronically and accessibly receive and mark absentee ballot also take effect today.

EDUCATION

House Bill 1790 allows schools to utilize remote learning during days they have to close for inclement weather or emergency situations so that students don't miss instructional time.

Educators will be evaluated on their cultural competency, as outlined in Senate Bill 1196 and House Bill 1904. The bill requires every person seeking a license from the Board of Education to complete instruction or training in cultural competency with an endorsement in history and social sciences to complete instruction in African American history.

House Bill 1823 requires public schools, child day programs and certain other programs to have carbon monoxide detectors required in each building that was built before 2015.

Under House Bill 1776, teachers can be granted a temporary, two-year extension of their license if it expires on June 30, 2021.

House Bill 1998 reduces the number of mandatory annual lock-down drills in each public elementary and secondary school from three to two.

Each school board in the Commonwealth must adopt a policy that prohibits that board from filing a lawsuit against a student or the student's parent because the student cannot pay for a meal at school or owes a school meal debt according to House Bill 2013.

LAW ENFORCEMENT

House Bill 2031 prohibits local law enforcement and campus law enforcement from using facial recognition technology.

Senate Bill 1119 creates a special non-reverting fund to be known as the Body-Worn Camera System Fund to assist state or local law-enforcement agencies with the costs of purchasing, operating and maintaining body-worn camera systems. The bill has an expiration date of July 1, 2023.

Under Senate Bill 1475, warranted searches must only be done between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. unless a judge or a magistrate authorizes it for another time for good cause.

FIREARMS

House Bill 2128 increases the time provided for the Department of State Police to complete a background check before a firearm may be transferred from three business days to five business days.

A person who has been convicted of assault and battery of a family or household member, as defined in the bill, cannot purchase, possess or transport a firearm under House Bill 1992.

House Bill 2295 makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor for a person to carry any firearm or explosive material within the Capitol of Virginia, Capitol Square and the surrounding area, any building owned or leased by the Commonwealth or any office where employees of the Commonwealth are regularly present for the purpose of performing their official duties.

People will no longer allowed to have a firearm within 40 feet of any building being used as a polling place, including one hour before and one hour after its use as a polling place, under House Bill 2081.

MISCELLANEOUS

To-go cocktails are here to stay, having been made  legal until 2022. This is outlined in House Bill 1879 and Senate Bill 1299.

House Bill 1801 increases the minimum fine for dumping or disposing of litter or trash on public or private property from $250 to $500.

Under House Bill 1848, discrimination on the basis of disability has been added as an unlawful discriminatory practice under the Virginia Human Rights Act.

Drivers of motor vehicles will be required to change lanes when overtaking a bicycle or certain other vehicles when the lane of travel is not wide enough for you to pass at least three feet to the left of the bicycle under House Bill 2262.

Any individual 16 years of age or older, including a corporation, is prohibited from intentionally releasing, discarding or causing to be released or discarded any nonbiodegradable balloon outdoors under House Bill 2159. Any person convicted is liable for a civil penalty of $25 per balloon to be paid into the Game Protection Fund.

Senate Bill 1138 states any person who is diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection and engages in sexual behavior that poses a substantial risk of transmission to another person with the intent to transmit the infection to that person and transmits such infection to that person is guilty of infected sexual battery, punishable as a Class 6 felony.

Employees of a pet shop, dealer or commercial dog breeder can not have a previous conviction of animal cruelty under Senate Bill 1412. It also prohibits pet shops from selling or giving for adoption a dog without first obtaining a signed statement from the purchaser or adopter that they have never been convicted of animal cruelty.

Virginia is the first state in the South to abolish the death penalty. Read House Bill 2263 and Senate Bill 1165 for more information.

Beginning today, Virginia will remove honors for confederates and segregationists. The statue of Virginia governor and U.S. Senator Harry Byrd Sr. in Richmond’s Capitol Square will be taken down.