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Highlights of Bills and New Laws in Virginia for 2019

June 26, 2019

Each January the Virginia General Assembly convenes to consider passing new laws and repealing old ones. Delegates and State Senators meet for six or eight weeks in alternating years with the extra two weeks in years when a budget is voted on. We had a 47-day session this year with sine die (closing day) on February 24. Generally, the new laws become effective on July 1st with exceptions for either immediate or delayed enactment. More than 3,000 bills were introduced. Some were continued to the 2020 session, others failed to pass both the Senate and House of Delegates, and some were vetoed by the governor. Here are highlights of some that passed and some that didn’t. 

New Laws That Were Passed

Rear-facing Child Restraint Devices—Forward-facing child restraint devices until the child reaches two years of age or until the child reaches the minimum height and weight as prescribed by the manufacturer are prohibited. Studies show rear-facing seats provide better protection for the child’s head, neck and spine when the vehicle is involved in a collision. The bill was passed in 2018 but had a delayed effective date of July 1, 2019. HB708 

Break to Express Breast Milk—The Department of Human Resource Management is required to develop state personnel policies that provide break time for nursing mothers to express breast milk with reasonable time and a place other than a bathroom shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public. HB1916 

Happy Hour Advertisement—This bill expands the ability of retail on-premises licensees to advertise happy hours by allowing them to state the prices of featured alcoholic drinks and to use creative marketing techniques as long as the advertisements don’t encouraged overconsumption or drinking by minors. SB1726 

Purchase, Possession, and Sale of Tobacco Products, Nicotine Vapor Products, and Alternative Nicotine Products—The minimum age for persons purchasing or possessing tobacco products, nicotine vapor products, and alternative nicotine products increases from 18 to 21 with the exception of active duty military personnel. The bill also allows tobacco and nicotine vapor products to be sold from a vending machine if there is posted notice of the minimum age requirements and the machine is located in an area that is not open to the general public and readily accessible to persons under 21.  HB2748 

Smoking in Outdoor Amphitheater of Concert Venue—With the passage of this bill, localities may enact ordinances to designate reasonable no-smoking areas within an outdoor amphitheater or concert venue owned by the locality. The bill requires the ordinance to post adequate signage designating the no-smoking areas. A violation will be a civil (not criminal) penalty with a fine of not more than $25. SB1304 

Statute of Limitations—This bill provides that a statute of limitations for an action based on an unsigned, written contract is three years after the cause of action has accrued. HB2242 

Capital Murder—Any person convicted of capital murder of a law-enforcement officer, fire marshal, or certain other public safety officials who was 18 or older at the time of the offense shall be sentenced to no less than a mandatory minimum term of confinement for life. SB1501 

Autism Spectrum Disorder Insurance Coverage—Insurance companies are required to cover autism spectrum disorder regardless of the insured’s age. Formerly this was required only for ages 2 through 10. The requirement affects policies issued, reissued, or offered beginning January 1, 2020. HB2577 SB1693 

Cruelty to Animals—A number of bills passed regarding tethering of animals, adequate shelter and space, and general cruelty to animals. “Adequate shelter” includes the provision of shelter that, during hot weather, is shaded and does not readily conduct heat and, during cold weather, has a windbreak at its entrance and provides sufficient bedding material. HB1625 SB1025 HB1874 HB1897 

Move Over Law—The requirement to move over, or slow down if moving over is not available, for emergency vehicles on the side of the road has been expanded to include most all vehicles displaying flashing lights. And a conviction for even a first offense is a Class One misdemeanor (like reckless driving) with a possible penalty of up to $2,500 and incarceration up to one year. The possibility of jail carries with it the right to an attorney. HB1911 

VA Lottery Law; Disclosure of a Lottery Winner’s Identity—The VA Lottery may not disclose information about and individual winner whose prize exceeds $10 million unless the winner consents. HB1650/SB1060 

Dismissal of Summons for Expiration of Vehicle Registration—Courts are authorized to dismiss a summons for expired registration if the defendant provides the court proof of compliance with the law on or before the court date. HB1712 

Cannabis—New law signed by Governor Northam in March expanded Virginia’s medical cannabis program. Interested persons may be able to go to a healthcare professional and secure a prescription for the use of CBD and THC-A products from one of five dispensaries that will be set up throughout the Commonwealth. Smoking marijuana in Virginia is still illegal and the recreational use of cannabis products is still prohibited. SB1557 

Bills That Did Not Become Law 

Sanctuary Policies Prohibited—A bill that prohibits localities from adopting any ordinance, procedure, or policy intended to restrict the enforcement of federal immigration laws passed both VA House and Senate but was vetoed by Governor Northam. SB1156 

Manufacture and Distribution of Switchblade Knives—A bill exempting from the prohibition on selling or possessing switchblades by a manufacturer, distributor, or employee who uses it in the due course of his employment passed both VA House and Senate but was vetoed by Governor Northam. SB1251 

Equal Rights Amendment—A resolution to make Virginia the 38th and final state to ratify the ERA passed the VA Senate (26-14) but failed by one vote in the House of Delegates Committee to take the vote to the full floor. Even if it had passed in both the VA House and Senate, federal courts would have likely gotten involved since deadline to ratify the amendment was 1982. That fact didn’t stop large numbers of advocates from demonstrating at the state capitol. SJ284 

This is merely a highlight of bills addressed in the 2019 VA legislative session. Information was provided from the following sources: 

http://dls.virginia.gov/pubs/summary/2019/summary2019.pdf

http://dls.virginia.gov/pubs/idc/idc19.html 

Kathryn Byler is a Pender & Coward attorney focusing her practice in the areas of real estate, business, guardianships, and estate planning matters.

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