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Votes

New Laws Take Effect July 1

Many new state laws and initiatives passed by the Virginia General Assembly this spring will be applicable after July 1.

* Drivers under the age of 18 can be penalized for using a wireless telecommunication device while driving if they are found to be doing so when they are cited for some other offense.

* Localities will be allowed to install photo-monitoring systems in traffic signals, otherwise known as red-light cameras, for every 10,000 residents they have.

* The state will change course from moving toward utility deregulation as some other states have recently done and instead implement a new "hybrid" model of electricity regulation.

* Tenants who are elderly or have a disability and are involved in a rental-to-condominium conversion can assign the responsibilities associated with right-to-purchase discussions to a government agency, housing authority or preapproved nonprofit.

* Owners of residential properties who are selling the property will be required to notify purchasers that there are no current zoning violations that have not been fixed or remedied.

* Abusive drivers fees will go into effect for Virginia residents, a charge over and above the fines imposed. Virginia citizens cited for reckless driving — speeding 20 miles per hour above the limit — will pay an additional $1,050; residents convicted of drunk driving will pay an additional $2,250; and those caught driving without a license will pay an additional $900. These extra fees do not apply to out-of-state offenders. The new abusive driver fees along with an increase in the vehicle registration fee and overweight truck fee is expected to raise $200 million annually for Virginia’s Highway Maintenance and Operations Fund.

* The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, a regional group with representatives from several local governments, is likely to pass the Northern Virginia transportation tax package July 12. Through the transportation bill this spring, the General Assembly gave the regional government body the power to levy these taxes. If the tax package is approved, residents and business owners in several Northern Virginia localities — including Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun counties and Alexandria — will see increases in rental car fees, commercial real estate assessments, the grantors tax, local car registration, the tax on mechanics’ labor and the initial driver’s license fee. Money generated from the taxes, which the authority estimates will add up to $300 million annually, will be used exclusively for transportation upgrades in Northern Virginia.