2021-7-1

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.

ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING MARKS MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION GOING INTO EFFECT IN VIRGINIA

RICHMOND (July 1, 2021) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring issued the below statement following marijuana legalization going into effect in Virginia today. In April, the General Assembly passed an amendment that moved the effective date of the legalization of small amounts of marijuana up to July 1, 2021.
 
“Today is an important day in the Commonwealth’s ongoing criminal justice reform journey. Last year, Virginia decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana – an important first step – but we could not let up until we had full legalization,” said Attorney General Herring. “For too long, Virginia’s marijuana policies were not working, and they were disproportionately affecting Black and brown Virginians, saddling them with criminal records that could negatively affect almost every aspect of their lives. Now, with the legalization of small amounts of marijuana, Black communities and communities of color will no longer feel the disparate impacts of our old, outdated policies.
 
“I am so proud I played a role in reforming Virginia’s marijuana policies and getting us on a path towards legalization and I want to thank all the advocates and partners who were integral in getting this important endeavor passed.”
  
According to 2020 data, more than half of all marijuana-related charges in Virginia, at least 2,397, were against Black Virginians, while Black Virginians only make up about 20 percent of the Commonwealth’s population.
 
During the 2021 General Assembly Session, Attorney General Herring helped successfully move Virginia towards legal, regulated adult use of cannabis, after he become the leader on cannabis reform in Virginia following his call for decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana, action to address past convictions, and a move towards legal and regulated adult use. In his call for cannabis reform, he cited the unnecessary negative impact of a criminal conviction for possession, the expense and social costs of enforcing the current system, and the disparate impact on African Americans and people and communities of color. Attorney General Herring reiterated his call for reform when data from 2018 showed a record number of arrests for marijuana possession. In December 2019, Attorney General Herring held a cannabis summit for policymaking stakeholders in Virginia that focused on policy and included experts from attorneys generals’ offices, state agencies and legislative operations in states that have legalized cannabis, as well as cannabis policy experts.

More Than 750,000 Virginia Adults Gain New Medicaid Dental Benefit

Covered services include cleanings and dentures

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that more than 750,000 adult Medicaid members will have access to comprehensive dental services under a benefit that begins July 1, 2021. The Governor celebrated the launch of the new adult dental benefit during an event at the Capital Area Health Network’s Vernon J. Harris Medical and Dental Center in Richmond.

“Oral health is an integral part of overall health, well-being, and quality of life,” said Governor Northam. “This historic expansion of services will ensure that adult Medicaid members across our Commonwealth have access to the quality dental care they deserve. I am proud of the bipartisan support and strong collaboration we have received from dentists and health care advocates that helped us reach this significant milestone.”

Adult members currently eligible for full Medicaid benefits will have more services and provider choices under the initiative approved in the new state budget. The new benefit covers up to three regular cleanings annually as well as preventive care, X-rays, fillings, dentures, oral surgeries and other oral health services.

“With this new benefit, Virginians will have access to true wellness,” said Secretary of Health and Human Resources Daniel Carey, MD, MHCM. “I am grateful to the dental community, the General Assembly, and the Department for Medical Assistance Services for all of their work to make this happen. Together, we can make Virginia the healthiest state in the country.”

The Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS) and DentaQuest, the state’s Medicaid dental benefits administrator, are working closely with dental providers to encourage participation in the initiative. Providers wishing to serve Medicaid members can call 1-888-912-3456 or visit the Dentaquest website for information on credentialing and enrolling in the Medicaid provider network.

“When we expanded Medicaid eligibility in 2019, our new members identified dental services as a top need,” said DMAS Director Karen Kimsey. “With more than 562,000 new members as a result of Medicaid expansion, we appreciate the support of Virginia dentists in helping us meet the tremendous need we know exists in our Commonwealth for oral health care.”

Research indicates that poor oral health is linked to high blood pressure, as well as pregnancy and birth complications.

Medicaid members can contact a DentaQuest representative at 1-888-912-3456 to find a dentist and learn more about the new dental benefit. Children and pregnant individuals enrolled in Medicaid, Family Access to Medical Insurance Security (FAMIS) and FAMIS MOMS are already eligible to receive dental care.

MAKE IT A SAFE & SOBER JULY 4 HOLIDAY WEEKEND

RICHMOND – With backyard barbecues and public Independence Day celebrations back in full swing, the Virginia State Police is encouraging everyone to plan ahead for the holiday weekend.

“This year Independence Day means a lot of different things for Virginians, but it’s safe to say big celebrations will be part of your weekend plans,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “Whether watching a neighborhood fireworks display, heading to a big celebration or traveling for summer vacation, remember to buckle up, eliminate distractions and never drive buzzed, drunk or under the influence.”

As part of its ongoing efforts to increase safety and reduce traffic fatalities on Virginia’s highways during the coming holiday weekend, Virginia State Police will increase patrols from 12:01 a.m. Friday (July 2, 2021) through midnight Monday (July 5, 2021) as part of the Operation Crash Awareness Reduction Effort (C.A.R.E.). Operation C.A.R.E. is a state-sponsored, national program intended to reduce crashes, fatalities and injuries due to impaired driving, speed and failing to wear a seat belt.

During last year’s four-day Independence Day Operation C.A.R.E initiative, there were nine traffic deaths on Virginia highways. Virginia troopers arrested 44 drivers operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs, cited 1,540 speeders and 732 reckless drivers, and issued 126 citations to individuals for failing to obey the law and buckle up. Troopers also assisted 1,153 disabled/stranded motorists.

If planning to drink alcohol at a July 4 function, plan ahead and arrange a designated driver, use a rideshare service or taxi, or utilize public transportation to be certain you get home safely.  Party hosts are encouraged to serve non-alcoholic beverage options, and to help prevent any guests from drinking and driving home from their event.

“It is also important to note that July 4th celebrations may be a bit different this year than those of the past due to the legalization of simple possession of cannabis for adults 21 years and over,” said Colonel Settle. “Whether you are trying marijuana for the first time or are a previous cannabis consumer, remember driving under the influence is still illegal in Virginia. If we all do our small part, we increase everyone’s chances of having a safer holiday weekend.”

As of July 1, 2021, adults 21 years and older will be allowed to possess not more than one ounce of cannabis for personal use. The use of marijuana while driving a motor vehicle or while being a passenger in a motor vehicle will continue to be illegal. For more information on the new legislation, visit: cannabis.virginia.gov.

With increased holiday patrols, Virginia State Police also reminds drivers of Virginia’s “Move Over” law, which requires motorists to move over when approaching an emergency vehicle stopped alongside the road. If unable to move over, then drivers are required to cautiously pass the emergency vehicle. The law also applies to workers in vehicles equipped with amber lights.

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