Put down the cell phone and get ready to fork over some extra cash on your next shopping trip; most new state laws and taxes approved this year go into effect July 1.
Below are just a few changes that were among the hundreds of bills the General Assembly passed this year.
The transportation funding bill is ushering in changes to several taxes and fees. The most noticeable change for most people will be the rise in sales taxes, which will increase to 6 percent in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads and 5.3 percent in the rest of the state.
The tax on gasoline will shift from a flat per-gallon rate to a percentage rate, 3.5 percent for gasoline and 6 percent per gallon for diesel fuel.
The legislation also ushered in a new $64-per-year registration fee for hybrid and electric vehicles, as well as a new fee on real estate transactions in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.
These new taxes and fees are expected to generate about $3.5 billion over the next five years.
It is already illegal to send emails and text messages while driving in Virginia, but the fine is only $20 and police officers can’t pull drivers over just for texting. That changes July 1.
Texting while driving becomes a primary offense, which means drivers can be pulled over and ticketed for texting without committing another infraction. The fines will increase to $125 for the first offense and $250 for the second and subsequent offenses.
Any driving while intoxicated conviction will be a felony if the driver has a prior conviction for an alcohol-related conviction in which someone was killed or injured.
Under current law, a DWI is only a felony if it is the driver’s third or subsequent conviction within 10 years. This provision will still apply.
The General Assembly amended the state code to make it easier to restrict variations on synthetic marijuana and “research chemicals,” also known as bath salts. The new language adds additional chemical compounds in the same family so that people can’t bypass the ban by changing the chemical formula.
Another law added two anabolic steroids, methasterone and prostanozol, to the state’s list of Schedule III controlled substances. Possession of a Schedule III substance is a Class 1 misdemeanor, which can carry penalties of up to a year in jail. Distributing the drugs or selling them to a minor is a felony and can carry more severe penalties.
In an effort to curb cigarette trafficking, the General Assembly strengthened penalties related to possessing cigarettes without the state’s tax stamp in an effort to avoid taxes. As of July 1 is a Class 6 felony to sell, purchase, transport, receive or possess 500 or more packages of unstamped cigarettes and a Class 5 felony for a second offense. Under current law, the threshold is 3,000 or more packages and there is no heightened penalty for a second offense.
The new law also provides that it is a Class 1 misdemeanor to sell fewer than 500 packages of unstamped cigarettes.
Legislators removed an old law from the books that outlawed “lewd and lascivious cohabitation,” better known as unmarried romantic partners living together. The change retains a prohibition on lewd and lascivious conduct in public.
Washington Nationals fans will have a new way to display their support for the team. Legislators authorized a specialty license plate displaying the team’s logo. Proceeds from the license plate will support the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation.