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Highlights of Bills and New Laws in Virginia

July 01, 2018

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, such as this year. Generally, the new laws become effective on July 1st with exceptions for either immediate or delayed enactment. This year the General Assembly considered 3,722 bills. Some were continued to the 2019 session, others failed to pass both the Senate and House of Delegates, and some were vetoed by the governor, resulting in approximately 1,500 new laws. Here are highlights of some that passed and some that didn’t.

Official Salamander—Thanks to the efforts of a small group of young conservationists (“Salamander Savers 4-H Club” in Fairfax), the Red Salamander (Pseudotriton ruber) was selected from the 50+ varieties of salamanders found in Virginia to be the official state salamander. This designation joins other state symbols such as the official state beverage (milk), insect (tiger swallowtail butterfly), snake (eastern garter snake), and spirit (George Washington’s rye whiskey). HB 459 

CBD Oil and THC-A Oil—It’s still illegal to smoke marijuana in Virginia. Only nine states and the District of Columbia have approved recreational use of marijuana. All except for four states allow medical use of cannabis or some form of cannbidiol (CBD) oil or tetrahydrocannabinol acid (TCH-A) oil with a doctor’s prescription. The new Virginia law provides that a healthcare practitioner may issue a prescription for the use of CBD oil or TCH-A oil for the treatment, or to alleviate the symptoms of, any diagnosed condition or disease determined by the practitioner to benefit from such use. This is an expansion from previous law that limited the use to alleviate the symptoms of intractable epilepsy. The bill increases the supply of oils from 30 days to 90 days and reduces the minimum amount of cannabidiol or tetrahydrocannabinol acid per milliliter for a dilution of the Cannabis plant to fall under the definition of CBD oil or THC-A oil. This bill carried an emergency clause so it went to effect immediately upon being passed and signed by the governor in March. HB 1251/SB 726 

Alcoholic Confectionery—Bakers, ice cream makers, and others can now add alcohol to their sweets to be consumed off-premises provided that there is five percent or less alcohol by volume and the alcohol is not in liquid form at the time such confections are sold. HB 1602/SB 61 

Grand Larceny Threshold—The threshold amount of money or value of goods taken at which the crime rises from petit larceny to grand larceny increases from $200 to $500. HB 1550/SB 105 

Child Support Obligation and Modification of Spousal Support—A new law establishes methods by which child support obligations can be calculated when there are multiple custody arrangements between parents of children subject to child support orders. HB 1361/SB 981 And, another new law provides that when a payor spouse reaches full retirement age pursuant to the federal Social Security Act, it shall be considered a material change in circumstances and basis for a request for modification by any person subject to a spousal support order.  SB 540 

Rear-facing Child Restraint Devices—Forward-facing child restraint devices until, at least, 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 has a delayed effective date of July 1, 2019. HB 708 

Housing; Installation and Maintenance of Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms—This bill creates standards for the installation and maintenance of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in rental property. The bill requires a landlord to install a smoke alarm and to certify annually that the alarm has been installed and maintained in good working order. The landlord is also required to install a carbon monoxide alarm upon request by a tenant. HB 609 

Driver’s Licenses and Street Signs—Upon request and proof of veteran status, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) must issue driver’s licenses, permits, and identification cards displaying an indicator signifying that the holder is a veteran. HB 737 Also, upon request and verification, DMV must post and maintain signs informing drivers that a person with a disability may be present in or around the roadway. The disabilities specifically noted are deaf, blind, and any person with autism or an intellectual or developmental disability. HB 505 

Deferral of Jury Service—This bill allows a court to defer a person’s jury service to a later term if the person is enrolled as a full-time student and is attending classes at an accredited public or private institution. HB 481 

Dogs and Wineries—This new law allows dogs, not just service animals, inside and on the premises of a licensed distillery, a licensed winery or a licensed brewery, except in any area used for the manufacture or storage of food products.  HB 286 

Coon Hunting—Passage of this bill removed the prohibition on hunting or killing raccoons after 2:00 AM on Sunday. SB 375/HB 239 

Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation; Yorktown Victory Center—The name of the Yorktown Victory Center has been changed to the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown. HB 335 

The Following Bills Failed: 

Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the United States Constitution proposed by Congress in 1972—The joint resolution advocates that the Amendment remains viable and may be ratified notwithstanding the expiration of the 10-year ratification period set out in the resolving clause, as amended, in the proposal adopted by Congress. Disregarding the potential that it’s 36 years too late, the Virginia legislature still does not ratify the ERA. HJ 2 

Repeal of Cursing in Public—Repeal of a law prohibiting cursing in public was left in committee and failed to make it to a full vote of the House so it remains a criminal offense (Class 4 misdemeanor) to profanely swear in public. While the First Amendment of the U. S. Constitution protects free speech, the Supreme Court of the United States has recognized several categories of speech that states may regulate. HB 31 

Reduction of Penalty for Adultery—Passage would have reduced adultery from a criminal offense (Class 4 misdemeanor) to a civil offense carrying a penalty of not more than $250. This bill was passed by the House but not make it out of committee in the Senate, therefore, it did not proceed to the governor for signing and does not become law. HB 745/SB 610 

Repeal of Fornication Statute—In light of the 2003 U. S. Supreme Court precedent of Lawrence v. Texas the Virginia Supreme Court (Va. Supreme Court, Martin v. Ziher 2005) ruled the law prohibiting fornication (sexual intercourse by an unmarried person with any other person) is unconstitutional, however, the law remains in the Code. There have been repeated attempts to repeal the outdated law but the current effort didn’t make it out of the Courts of Justice Committee. HB 138 

Repeal of Punitive Damages Limit—Elimination of the limit of the total amount of punitive damages that can be awarded in an action. Current law provides a limit of $350,000. HB 1305 

This article is not intended to be comprehensive or complete. Selected bills have been taken from summaries prepared by the VA Division of Legislative Services and other sources. If any of these laws affect you personally, you should check with a lawyer about specific concerns or read the actual law in its entirety. 

Kathryn Byler is a Pender & Coward attorney focusing her practice on real estate, small business, wills, trusts and estates matters.

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