What happens in Richmond usually stays in Richmond during the General Assembly’s annual legislative session.
Until the first of July, when what happened in Richmond becomes the law.
Based on low voter turnout for state representatives, most of Fairfax County’s one million plus residents pay little attention to what their state legislators do or don’t do in Richmond each year.
“Bills get passed in the blink of an eye, and what gets passed really does affect your day-to-day life,” said Delegate David Bulova (D-37.)
He pointed out that nearly 850 bills were passed into law during the 2012 session, including bitterly-debated legislation requiring a woman to have an ultrasound before an abortion, and the repeal of the “one handgun a month” law, which eliminated Virginia’s 19-year ban on the purchase of more than one handgun a month.
Bulova had several legislative wins this session, including a bill that would make texting and driving a primary offense.
“We needed to at least make it clear that you risk a reckless driving offense if you text and drive,” Bulova said.
Transportation funding dominated much of the discussion this year, and caused the most heartburn for many legislators. On the last day of the 2013 session, state legislators struck a bipartisan 11th hour deal for a comprehensive transportation funding plan, the first long-term plan in 27 years.
Most local legislators praised the bill, which is projected to raise more than $3.5 billion for roads and rails over five years and nearly $900 million annually after 2018. Northern Virginia gets hundreds of millions from the state, including $300 million committed to complete Metro’s Silver Line extension to Dulles International Airport.
State Sen. Chap Petersen (D-34) was one of a handful of Democrats who voted against the deal, arguing that the new taxes are “discriminatory against Northern Virginia. … The bottom line is we did need new revenue for transportation. We just went about it the wrong way.”
"If we had not seized the moment, I couldn't see another path forward in the foreseeable future to get a meaningful transportation package through a split General Assembly and then the governor,” said Bulova during a legislative wrap-up session for constituents in the Braddock district in April. “While this wasn't a perfect package, it also wasn't a something or nothing deal either.”
Del. Vivian Watts (D-39), considered a “transportation wonk” by her peers—she served as Virginia’s Secretary of Transportation—has argued that not having the transportation deal would have been “catastrophic.”
“The $300 million that is raised here will stay here for local and regional priorities,” Watts said.
Following is a list of legislation affecting Fairfax County residents that became law on Monday, July 1. For more information on a particular bill, visit the Legislative Information System at http://leg1.state.va.us/lis.htm.
Transportation Taxes and Fees (HB2313)
Replaces 17.5 cents per gallon tax on gasoline and diesel with a 3.5 percent tax on gas and 6 percent tax on diesel.
Increases the automobile sales tax from 3 percent to 4.15 percent.
Increases the state sales tax from 5 percent to 5.3 percent.
Increases the state General Fund transfer to transportation from 0.5 percent to 0.675 percent.
Increases the fee for alternative fuel vehicles to $64.
Increases sales tax in Northern Virginia by 0.7 percent, for a total of 6 percent.
Imposes 2 percent transient occupancy tax.
Imposes a congestion relief fee [grantors tax] of $0.15/$100 valuation.
Repeals the local option to enact a 1 percent income tax by referendum.
Texting and Driving (HB 1907/SB 1222). Driving while texting is now a traffic infraction punishable, for a first offense, by a fine of $125 and, for a second or subsequent offense, by a fine of $250.
Driving under 18 (SB 1165). The holder of a provisional driver's license under age 18 is not authorized to operate a motor vehicle with more than one passenger who is less than 21 years old unless the driver is accompanied by a parent or person acting in loco parentis who is occupying a seat beside the driver.
School Emergency Response (HB 2345). This bill requires the Virginia Center for School Safety, in conjunction with the Department of State Police, the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, and the Department of Education, to develop a model critical incident response training program for public school personnel and those providing services to schools.
School Safety Audits (HB 2346). This bill requires each school, in its annual school safety audit, to complete a school inspection walk-through using a standardized checklist provided by the Virginia Center for School Safety, which will incorporate crime prevention through environmental design principles. Each completed walk-through checklist will be available to the chief law enforcement officer of the locality upon request.
Firearms Safety (SB 1378). Anyone convicted of the “strawman” purchase of a firearm, with the intent to resell or transport a firearm outside of Virginia, is now guilty of a Class 4 felony and will be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment to one year.
HB 1990 allows localities to impose a $250 annual license tax for drivers who do not display license plates issued by the commonwealth, and who are not already exempt from displaying license plates.
HB 2175 authorizes the governor to request federal funds to construct a new veterans care center in Northern Virginia, and requires the state treasurer to issue a short-term treasury loan in an amount up to $28.5 million for the state share of construction costs, once the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has determined that federal funds will be allocated for the new center.
HB 2341 provides that a person who is qualified to register to vote may apply to register to vote by electronic means authorized by the State Board of Elections.