Opinion: Commentary: July 1: New Law Day

Opinion: Commentary: July 1: New Law Day

Next Thursday is July 1st, and here in Virginia that means that most of the laws passed during the 2021 legislative session will go into effect! In any given year, all laws enacted during a regular session of the General Assembly take effect on the first day of July following the adjournment of the regular session at which they were enacted, unless a different date is specified. Sometimes a law has a delayed implementation and its effective date is later.

This July 1 date corresponds with the beginning of the next fiscal year. However, you may remember that earlier this year in order to complete our legislative business, Governor Northam called a special session. Laws passed during a special session usually go into effect on the first day of the fourth month following the month of adjournment of the special session. In order to prevent laws going into effect on June 1st, prior to the beginning of the 2022 fiscal year, we began our special session on March 1 to keep to the July 1 date.

Below, I highlight just a few of the new laws going into effect next week which will impact our daily lives here in the Commonwealth:

  • The Virginia Human Rights Act will expand to prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability.

  • The death penalty will be eradicated.

  • The witness signature requirement for absentee ballots will be eliminated during public health emergencies like COVID-19.

  • Electoral boards or general registrars of a county or city will have the option to provide in person absentee voting on Sundays.

  • Temporary voting expansion measures such as ballot drop boxes, my measure for postage-paid envelopes for returning ballots by mail, and curing of absentee ballots will be made permanent.

  • When passing cyclists, if three feet of distance cannot be maintained, drivers must switch lanes when they can do so safely instead of just moving over (this may include crossing double yellow lines which is already legal, provided it can be done safely when passing others including pedestrians,cyclists, skateboarders, and foot-scooters).

  • Bicyclists may ride two abreast in a travel lane instead of in single-file.

  • Simple possession of not more than one ounce of marijuana by Virginians 21 years of age and older will be legal. I plan to publish an article going more in depth about this legislation, which I worked extensively on as Chairman of the ABC and Gaming Subcommittee.

  • A locality, like Fairfax County, may by ordinance require the removal of clutter from property, except on land zoned for or in active farming operation. Clutter includes mechanical equipment, household furniture, containers, and similar items that may be detrimental to the well-being of a community when they are left in public view for an extended period or are allowed to accumulate.

  • Workers’ Compensation will expand to include the death or disability of firefighters, emergency medical services personnel, law-enforcement officers, correctional officers, and regional jail officers from COVID-19, and COVID-19 will be deemed an occupational disease.

  • Essential workers will get paid one week of sick leave if they fall ill on the job, and retaliation from employers against workers who take sick leave will be prohibited.

  • Up to 12-month prescriptions of birth control will be available to people on Medicaid, increasing access to contraception for those who need it.

  • An end to the ban on abortion coverage plans offered through the health exchange, the first state in the country to do so.

  • “Games of Skill”, also known as “gray machines” found in some restaurants, truck stops and small convenience stores, will be prohibited.

  • Banquet licensees that are nonprofit corporations or associations conducting fundraisers through an online meeting may ship wine in closed containers to persons for off-premises consumption.

  • Car manufacturers will be required to sell a certain percentage of electric or hybrid electric passenger cars. Transportation is the leading source of greenhouse gas pollution in the Commonwealth, and this measure is supported by both automobile dealers and the environmental community.

The General Assembly took many of the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and crafted and passed legislation that will make the Commonwealth a more just, cleaner, safer, and healthier place to live.

There are many more good measures becoming the law of the land, including legislation that I introduced on behalf of constituents, which you can look up on the Legislative Information System website. It is my pleasure and honor to represent the good people of the 44th district.