Legal marijuana, repealing the death penalty and 16 other laws that come into effect in Virginia on July 1
RICHMOND, Virginia. – Most of the new laws passed earlier this year by the Democrat-controlled Virginia General Assembly will come into effect Thursday, including measures that legalize recreational use of marijuana, largely ban the use by the facial recognition technology police and forgive some unemployment overpayments.
In full control of state government for a second year, Democrats used their majority to pass bills that again turned Virginia into an outlier in the South.
Democrats say their policies will help Virginia recover from the pandemic, improve public education and make the criminal justice system fairer. Republicans warn that the new laws will hamper small businesses, increase energy costs and make families less secure.
Here’s a look at some of the notable changes for the year:
Possession of up to 1 ounce without intent to distribute will become legal for adults 21 years of age and over. Adults will also be allowed to grow up to four marijuana plants per household. But it will be years before a legal market to buy the drug is established.
Virginia lawmakers voted to end executions, marking a startling change in leadership for a state traditionally on death row. Only two men remained on death row; their sentences will be commuted to life imprisonment without parole.
Drivers in Virginia will need to change lanes when passing cyclists, unless the lane is unusually wide. In addition, two cyclists are allowed to travel side by side without having to form a single line when a vehicle is approaching.
Balloon releases will become illegal in Virginia. Those who participate in the practice and are aged 16 and over are liable to a fine of $ 25 per ball.
The biggest vote-related bills signed by Governor Ralph Northam are HB 1968, which now allows localities to be able to offer early voting on Sundays.
A measure of Del. Sally Hudson orders beleaguered Virginia Employment Commission to forgive unemployment benefit overpayments due to state or employer error if the recipient is indeed unable to repay. It’s a policy that most other American states, including many conservative southern states, already have in place. A spokesperson for the commission said those with overpayments will be contacted directly.
A compromise measure requires employers to provide paid sick leave to approximately 30,000 home health workers who serve Medicaid patients. The final version of the bill fell far short of what its godfather, Del. Elizabeth Guzman, presented, which would have covered a wide range of essential workers.
One measure will effectively allow local governments to seek state approval to create open container zones for alcohol. The bill expands a section of the code that previously dealt with special events, allowing localities to seek approval from the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority for an “outdoor refreshment zone license.”
A new law prohibits all local law enforcement agencies and campus police departments from purchasing or using facial recognition technology unless expressly authorized by the Legislature of the State. State police are not covered by legislation.
Lawmakers have increased the minimum fine for this misdemeanor from $ 250 to $ 500.
Criminal investigation files in cases no longer pending will be made public, with some exceptions. The families of the victims of the Virginia Beach mass shooting were among those advocating for the Freedom of Information Act reform bill.
Democrats have passed five gun control bills this year. These include measures banning firearms on State Capitol grounds and surrounding areas, extending the time the FBI has to conduct a background check, and prohibiting domestic abusers from buying, possessing, or to carry a firearm for three years after their date of conviction. .
A bill from Senator Jennifer McClellan aims to stabilize the child care industry, which has faced enormous challenges amid the pandemic. The measure will relax background check requirements and establish a pilot program to test new parameters for the use of grants. Another measure related to child care that temporarily expanded financial assistance to families was passed with an emergency clause, which means it took effect immediately.
A new law will phase out two obsolete and expensive coal tax credits that a state investigation has found to generate economic losses for Virginia.
Unregulated betting machines called “skill games” that have proliferated in places like gas stations and bars across the Commonwealth are on the verge of extinction after two years of bickering over the issue. New legislation will ban them on July 1. Former NASCAR driver and Emporia business owner Hermie Sadler has filed a lawsuit against the ban.
There are certainly many more new laws to come. Take a look and see what other bills Gov. Ralph Northam has approved, although not all of them go into effect on July 1.