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Votes

Opinion: New Laws, Assault on Freedom?

Voting restrictions, abortion restrictions, DUI restrictions, fewer gun restrictions, more go into effect July 1.

— A plethora of new laws will go into effect in the Commonwealth on July 1, including restrictive new procedures for voting, and the loosening of multiple gun regulations.

Drivers convicted of driving while very intoxicated and anyone convicted of DUI for the second time will now be required to have ignition locks installed on their vehicles which will check their blood alcohol levels and keep them from driving if they have been drinking. Hopefully this technology will keep drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel.

Women seeking abortions will be required to have a sonogram 48 hours before the abortion. The debate over this bill was one of the most publicized pieces of state legislation in the nation, and the focus of many jokes, protests and outrage. But still the bill passed and the Governor signed it into law.

Voters will be required to present identification, and if they arrive at the polling place without identification, they will cast a provisional ballot that will only be counted if the voter attends a meeting of the electoral board the next day to present his or her identification. Previously signing an affidavit swearing to your identity was sufficient.

Fortunately, your concealed weapons permit will count as your voter identification. But the law provides less sanction for carrying your concealed weapon without having your concealed weapons permit in your possession ($25 civil fine) than for not having your identification to vote in your possession (disenfranchised, your vote is not counted).

These two provisions, counting concealed weapons permit as voter identification and limiting the penalty for not having your permit with you while carrying your concealed weapon, were just a few of the laws passed that lessen restrictions on guns in commonwealth. Some examples, effective July 1: Eliminate the prohibition on purchasing more than one handgun in a 30-day period (there are no limits now); provide that nothing in the Emergency Services and Disaster Law shall limit or prohibit the otherwise lawful possession, carrying, transportation, sale, or transfer of firearms; provide that any locality that participates in any gun-buyback program offer the firearms acquired for sale by public auction or sealed bids to a person licensed as a dealer; allow local government employees to store a lawfully possessed firearm and ammunition in a locked private motor vehicle; remove the option for a locality to require that an applicant for a concealed handgun permit submit fingerprints as part of the application.

And something that will affect all of us, although it does not go into effect until September 2013, a new law that will require Virginians to pay sales tax on purchases from Amazon. This is only fair to local retailers.

The Virginia General Assembly enacted more than 700 new laws in 2012, many of them worthy of discussion.

Independence Day Coverage Online, Next Week

This week's Connection papers were printed on Monday and Tuesday July 1-2 because of the timing of the July 4/Independence Day holiday.

On Monday, at least half of our readers were still without power after Friday night's 80-mile-per-hour wind storm, and at our office, we are coping with intermittent power and related computer problems. Our website has been updated with storm information, www.ConnectionNewspapers.com, and our twitter accounts kept followers up to date during the aftermath.

While the hard copy of our papers won't get to readers until after the Wednesday holiday, those papers will not include coverage of independence day events, which will hopefully all be held despite the ongoing cleanup.

Digital replica (free) subscribers will receive their papers before July 4. Digital subscriptions are available without charge. Sign up at connectionnewspapers.com/subscribe

Our website is updated daily, www.ConnectionNewspapers.com. We would love to get your storm photos, email your name, town name and what's happening in the photo to centreview@connectionnewspapers.com.