The Commonwealth rang in the new year with a slate of new laws, many of which took effect January 1. Here’s a look at the updates to the Virginia Code for 2022.
Vehicles are now mandated to be covered with a higher minimum liability insurance. Starting January 1, liability insurance must cover $30,000 in damages in the event of an injury or death of one person, up from a previous requirement of $20,000. In 2025, minimum liability insurance will increase to $50,000.
For accidents that result in injury or death of two or more people, minimum liability insurance increased from $50,000 to $60,000. Similarly, in 2025, the requirement will rise to $100,000.
If motorists do not have proof of insurance, they must pay a $500 fee to register their vehicle. Those caught driving without insurance or prior payment of the fee will have their vehicle registration suspended, which costs $600 to restore.
The statewide minimum wage rose from $9.50 to $11 on January 1. The increase is a gradual step toward an eventual hourly minimum wage of $15; in 2023, it will increase to $12, followed by a $13.50 minimum wage that takes effect in 2025. The $15 minimum wage will then be phased in beginning Jan. 1, 2026.
A new law seeks to increase transparency in prescription drug prices. According to the AARP, the average annual cost of prescription drugs in the Commonwealth increased by 26 percent between 2015 and 2019, prompting lawmakers to direct the Department of Health to contract with a nonprofit that will collect and publicize prescription prices.
Providers will now be required to share prescription prices with VDH, which will be published on the department’s website.
Public universities, with the exception of the Virginia Military Institute and law schools accredited by the American Bar Association, are now banned from asking applicants to disclose their criminal history and may not deny admission based on it.
The law makes an exception that universities may inquire about a criminal history once a student has been admitted, at which point an admissions offer can be withdrawn if it is determined that the individual “poses a threat to the institution’s community.”
Cosmetic manufacturers are now barred from testing their products on animals in the Commonwealth. Starting July 1, the sale of any cosmetics that used animal testing will also be prohibited.
Virginia joined six other states that have passed similar bans on animal testing in cosmetics, two of which also took effect January 1.
The legislation was praised by animal rights groups and was sponsored by Senator Jennifer Boysko (D-33) and Delegate Kaye Kory (D-38), who both represent parts of Fairfax County.
“Animal testing for cosmetics is cruel and unnecessary and is deeply unpopular with the public,” said Boysko. “My bill will help to ensure that animals are not harmed for cosmetics sold in Virginia, thus meeting consumer demand, saving animals, and helping the U.S. match global progress on this issue.”
In a change aimed at increasing voter turnout, municipalities with elections in May will now have their election day moved to November to coincide with other local, state and federal elections.
District or ward-based elections will also see a change. Previously, localities could utilize at-large voting for candidates for a particular ward or district. Starting January 1, candidates who represent a specific ward or district must be elected by voters within that district and may no longer use at-large voting.
Additionally, primary elections held on the second Tuesday in June will now be held on the third Tuesday of the same month.
Low alcohol spirits will no longer be distributed by Virginia ABC stores starting this year unless they were produced by an in-state distiller. According to ABC, low alcohol beverages are any spirits-based drinks that consist of 7.5 percent or less alcohol by volume.
Undocumented immigrants will now be able to obtain a unique identification card from the DMV. Eligible residents must have either reported income from Virginia sources or been claimed as a dependent on a tax return filed with the Commonwealth in the preceding 12 months.
Any section of U.S. Route 1 in Virginia, still named “Jefferson Davis Highway”, will now be renamed “Emancipation Highway.”
Fairfax County and the City of Alexandria implemented their own local 5-cent tax on plastic bags. The tax took effect January 1.