General Assembly 2019: New Legislation
Some Bills That Passed
Virginia Minimum Wage: Removes exemptions in Virginia’s minimum wage statute for ushers, doormen, concession attendants, and cashiers in theaters. Virginia maintains the federal minimum wage of $7.25 /hour, one of the lowest in the nation especially for a state with so many high cost of living communities.
Driver License Suspension: Revises the driver’s license suspension process as it relates to child support collection, making it easier for individuals to request a judicial hearing and enter into payment agreements.
Military Survivors Benefits: Extends the benefits of the Virginia Military Survivors and Dependents Education Program to the families of veterans with at least a 90 percent permanent disability that is a result of any service activity, not just combat.
Absentee Voters: Ensures absentee voters can cast their ballots if they are in line at the time the absentee location closes.
Electric Car Charging Stations: Authorizes the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of General Services to operate electric vehicle charging stations on agency property.
Nursing Mothers: Codifies current Department of Human Resource Management guidance requiring state agencies provide break time and private areas for nursing mothers.
Tenant Rights: Allows tenants to seek reimbursement of attorney’s fees if they are successful in suing or defending against a landlord who has not kept the property in habitable condition.
School calendar; opening day of the school year: Requires each local school board to set the school calendar so that the first day students are required to attend school is no earlier than 14 days before Labor Day. Under current law, each local school board is required to set the school calendar so that the first day students are required to attend school is after Labor Day. The bill exempts from certain requirements certain school boards that were previously granted good cause waivers by the Board of Education.
Change to the capital murder law: The mandatory minimum sentence for those convicted of the capital murder of a law enforcement officer is life in prison.
Insurance coverage for autism: Removed an age cap (currently age 10 years) for requiring insurance companies to cover autism spectrum disorder.
Coal ash recycling: Requires Dominion Energy to clean up millions of tons of coal ash at four Virginia power plants in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. A bi-partisan group of lawmakers, Dominion Energy, and environmental groups all backed the plan.
Move Over law: A far stiffer penalty will be imposed for drivers who do not move over for emergency vehicles with their lights activated while responding to a scene on a Virginia roadway. Drivers will soon be charged with reckless driving the first time they violate the Move Over law.
School safety procedures & emergency situations: Requires each school board to develop training on safety procedures in the event of an emergency situation on school property. The bill requires such training to be delivered to each student and employee in each school at least once each school year. However, no common sense gun limitations were passed by this Assembly to protect students & staff.
Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment: A resolution that would have made Virginia the 38th and final state to ratify the ERA passed the Virginia Senate, but failed in the Republican controlled House of Delegates multiple times. The ERA would enshrine equal protection under the law regardless of sex in the U.S. Constitution. A large presence of ERA supporters was noted during the entire General Assembly session.
Hands Free Driving Law: Although versions of the bill passed both the House and Senate, negotiators could not come to a final agreement on the law.
Marijuana decriminalization: Multiple bills decriminalizing simple possession of small amounts of marijuana never made it out of committee in both the House and Senate.
Gun Violence Prevention: For many years, efforts to require a universal background check for gun purchases or transfers, reinstating the one handgun a month law, and the red flag laws were defeated in the Republican controlled committees. Republicans said they are protecting Second Amendment rights; Democrats said the safety measures are necessary to protect the public from gun violence. How many more schools and churches will be attacked in the next year? Whatever happened to outlawing bump stocks? Why is a universal background check so threatening? Is not a gun violation in another state, or a record of mental illness in another state relevant when someone purchases a firearm in Virginia? There are responsible gun owners who fully support many gun violence prevention measures. Where are their voices reflected in this lack of common sense legislation? How many VA lawmakers take contributions from the NRA?
Driver's license suspension for unpaid court fees: The Senate approved a measure to repeal the practice of suspending a person's driver's license if they cannot immediately pay court costs.
Bills that Advanced, but Not Yet Passed
Casino gambling: The bill allows casino gambling in qualifying cities where local residents vote in favor of having a casino. However, the Gambling Commission must first study the issue and report back to lawmakers by this November. Cities who want casinos must hold a voter referendum in Nov. 2020.
Independent Redistricting Commission: An independent, citizen involved panel shall be formed to redraw legislative maps following the decennial census due to multiple court cases over Virginia’s 2011 legislative maps seen to be examples of political gerrymandering. The body would be made up of 8 legislators and 8 citizens. Before taking effect, the constitutional amendment would have to pass the General Assembly next year and pass a statewide voter referendum.
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