The Virginia General Assembly approved 836 bills before adjourning its 2017 session on Feb. 25, and many of the bills that were signed into law by Gov. Terry McAuliffe officially took effect last week on July 1. Virginia’s Constitution designates July 1 as the effective date for new laws. That day also marks the beginning of the state’s new fiscal year.
This year’s new laws cover a wide range of subjects, from electronic ticket resales and college tuition hikes to birth control access and firearms for school security officers.
One of the new laws adopted this year was HB 2386. This bill was sponsored by Richmond Delegate Manoli Loupassi with some amendments by Governor McAuliffe.
Under this new law, a Virginia resident who has had their license suspended for unpaid court fines can now get their license back by paying the fine or setting up a payment agreement (like an installment payment when you buy a car). The new law sets up uniform rules for pay plans. It provides a realistic pathway for Virginia citizens both to meet their financial responsibilities and re-establish their driving rights.
Here are some of the before and after effects of this new law:
• Before the new law, you could not get on a payment plan if you had defaulted on a previous pay plan. Now you can get another plan if your circumstances have changed.
• Before, a large down payment--such as 50 percent--could be required. Now the maximum down payment is 5 percent for larger fines. So for a fine of $2,500, the down payment would be $125, not $1,250.
• Before, missing an installment payment date meant immediate default. Now you have a 10-day grace period.
• And now, in setting the terms, like the amount of monthly payments, courts must consider the individual’s financial resources, and not base it solely on the amount of the fine.
Here are some other laws that took effect July 1:
• Virginians are guaranteed the right to resell electronic tickets
H.B. 1825 prohibits any person or organization that issues tickets for public admission to a professional musical, sporting, or theatrical event from selling those tickets solely “through a delivery method that substantially prevents the purchaser from lawfully reselling the ticket on the internet ticketing platform of the purchaser’s choice.”
The legislation, which was introduced by Del. David B. Albo (R-47th) and signed by the governor on Mar. 3, also prohibits individuals from being discriminated against or denied admission to an event because they resold a ticket or purchased a resold ticket on a specific online platform.
Because it is a state law, it applies only to transactions in Virginia. Violators face a civil penalty between $1,000 and $5,000.
This new law comes in response to the online ticket-selling platform Ticketmaster, which has blocked ticket holders from reselling tickets in the past, according to The Washington Post.
• Health plans must cover up to one year’s supply of contraceptives
Del. Eileen Filler-Corn’s (D-41st) H.B. 2267 dictates that, starting on Jan. 1, 2018, all health plans with coverage for hormonal contraceptives must cover up to a 12-month supply when dispensed “at one time for a covered person or at a location…authorized to dispense drugs or supplies.”
Before this new law, women were only allowed to get one or three months’ worth of contraceptives at a time. Women are more likely to use birth control continually and consistently when they have a full year’s supply, decreasing the possibility of unintended pregnancy and abortions, according to The Virginian-Pilot.
The law explicitly states that it also extends to coverage for hormonal contraceptives that are prescribed for reasons other than contraceptive purposes, such as decreasing the risk of ovarian cancer or other health issues.
• Colleges must notify public of planned tuition increases
S.B. 1376, which was introduced by State Senator Chapman Petersen (D-34th), prohibits public higher education institutions from approving an increase in undergraduate tuition or mandatory fees without first notifying students and the public.
Public colleges and universities must announce a projected range of the planned increase, explain the need for the increase, and give notification of the date and location of any vote on the increase at least 30 days prior to that vote.
• School security officers can carry firearms
H.B. 1392, introduced by Del. L. Scott Lingamfelter (R-31st), authorizes school security officers to carry firearms in the performance of their duties.
However, there are a number of conditions that an officer must meet in order to be authorized.
An officer may be authorized to carry a firearm if they were an active law enforcement officer in Virginia within 10 years immediately prior to being hired by the local school board and if they retired from their law enforcement position in good standing.
The officer must meet the training and qualifications to carry a concealed handgun as a retired law enforcement officer, as well as any additional training and certification requirements by the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS).
The local school board has the final authority to grant school security officers the ability to carry a firearm. The board must first solicit input regarding the officer’s qualifications from the chief law enforcement of the locality where they served and ensure that the officer is not banned by state or federal law from possessing, buying, or transporting a firearm.
The law requires the DCJS to establish additional firearms training and certification requirements for school security officers who carry a firearm.
• Sexual assault evidence recovery kits will be retained for a longer period of time
H.B. 2127, introduced by Del. Mark Levine (D-45th), requires that recovery kits used to collect physical evidence of sexual assaults be stored for an additional 10 years following a written objection to its destruction from the victim.
Prior to this new law, physical evidence recovery kits (PERK) could be destroyed after testing without the victim being informed.
In addition to requiring that investigating law enforcement agencies advise victims of sexual assault about their rights to PERK kits, the bill requires the law enforcement agency to notify a victim at least 60 days before the date when the kit is scheduled for destruction. It also ensures that no victim will be charged for the cost of collecting or storing a kit.
“Basically, these kits are stored as long as the victim is even considering prosecution,” Levine said when explaining his bill during a July 1 press conference at Inova Fairfax Hospital.
• Schools have a timeline for notifying parents about bullying incidents
H.B. 1709, introduced by Filler-Corn, requires that school principals notify the parent of any student involved in an alleged incident of bullying about the status of any investigation within five school days of the allegation.
• Virginia will research and highlight African American history
Delores L. McQuinn’s (D-70th) H.B. 2296 directs the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities to identify the history of formerly enslaved African Americans in Virginia and to find ways to preserve the history for educational and cultural purposes.
This task includes the identification, preservation, and conservation of historic sites significant to the history, presence, and contributions of formerly enslaved African American people in Virginia.
The foundation will identify contributions by African American people to Virginia, the U.S., and the world, as well as historical sites significant to African American history in Virginia. It is also directed to recommend ways to increase tourism and revenue associated with such historical sites.
The bill creates a task force of both legislative and non-legislative members to help the foundation in its work. The full list of newly effective laws is available online at Virginia's Legislative Information System under the 2017 session list of bills approved by the governor or enacted.
• Commercial drivers could face mandatory jail time for DUIs
Persons convicted of driving a commercial motor vehicle in Virginia while intoxicated will face increasing mandatory minimum jail sentences and fines.
As part of Virginia’s newest driving under the influence (DUI) law[i] which becomes effective this week, convicted impaired commercial operators in or through Virginia will now face mandatory minimum fines up to $ 500 plus mandatory minimum jail sentences up to one-year. Specifically, persons convicted of driving a commercial motor vehicle in Virginia while intoxicated will face the following spectrum of mandatory minimum penalties:
FIRST OFFENSE: $250 fine plus, if offender’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was .15 or higher = five days incarceration; .20 or higher BAC = ten days incarceration. (Currently no mandatory minimums and no high-BAC sanctions.)
SECOND OFFENSE: w/in five years: $500 fine plus one-month to one year incarceration (20 days of which are mandatory minimum). W/in 5-10 years: $ 500 plus one-month incarceration (ten days of which are mandatory minimum). W/in ten years: $ 500 fine plus, if offender’s BAC was .15 or higher = additional ten days incarceration; .20 or higher BAC = additional 20 days incarceration. (Currently $ 200 mandatory minimum and $ 2,500 maximum. No high-BAC sanctions.)
THIRD OFFENSE: w/in ten years: Class 6 felony. (Currently no felony level threshold.)