General Assembly highlights: What passed and what didn’t
RICHMOND, Va. – During their 46-day session, the Virginia General Assembly passed 880 bills and myriad resolutions ranging from constitutional amendments to the designation of Taekwondo Day. Many more pieces of legislation were tossed out before lawmakers adjourned last month. Here are some key issues and laws that legislators addressed in 2017.
Bills that passed and are likely to become law:
SB 1578 would require most people renting out their homes on short-term rental sites, like Airbnb, to pay a registration fee in an attempt to regulate these rentals. Failure to do so would result in a fine.
HB 1842 will allow the state’s ABC stores to sell 151-proof grain alcohol, increasing the proof from 101. Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed the bill into law last week. Like most legislation, it will take effect July 1.
HB 2433 would treat cider as wine for all legal purposes. The measure, sponsored by Del. David Bulova, D-Fairfax, has passed both houses and is on McAuliffe’s desk.
SB 1150 would require the ABC Board to offer training to bartenders on how to recognize and intervene in “situations that may lead to sexual assault.”
Beer at Concession Stands
Beginning July 1, Virginians will be able to buy a can of beer – not just a cup – at indoor and outdoor concession stands that are licensed to sell alcoholic beverages.
SB 1469 will add “single original metal cans” to the list of disposable containers that can be used for the sale of beer, wine and mixed alcoholic drinks.
HB 2267 would allow doctors to prescribe women 12 months’ worth of contraceptives.
Governor Terry McAuliffe has signed multiple bills that will work to help combat the growing drug problem in Virginia.
Driver’s License Suspension for Possession of Marijuana
HB 2051, SB 784 and SB 1091 would revoke the current law requiring a six-month suspension of a driver’s license when a person is convicted of marijuana possession. While adults would no longer face that punishment, juveniles will still be subject to license suspension.
HB 2119 would limit the practice of laser hair removal to someone under the supervision of a doctor or trained health professional. Virginia and New York are currently the only two states that allow non-licensed professionals to perform laser hair removal.
Virginia probably will ease up a bit in its laws against marijuana by making it easier for epilepsy patients to obtain cannabis extract oils and by relaxing the penalty for people caught with small amounts of marijuana.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe is expected to sign the handful of marijuana-related bills passed by the General Assembly during its recent session. They include SB 1027, which will allow Virginia pharmacies to make and sell marijuana extract oils for treating intractable epilepsy.
Several bills created to fight against opioid abuse and fatal overdoses were passed. HB 2165 will mandate all opioid prescriptions be electronically submitted to pharmacies, while two other bills call for community organization training to treat opioid overdoses.
The House of Delegates and Senate unanimously passed a bill allowing hunters to wear blaze pink instead of blaze orange hunting apparel.
HB 1939 is sponsored by Del. James Edmunds in Halifax.
House Bill 2201 would make the fine for blocking the "fast lane" a mandatory $250. Vehicles traveling slower are supposed to drive in the right lane, according to current Virginia law.
Bills that failed:
Felon’s Voting Rights
SJR 223 would have required convicted felons to pay restitution before they were allowed to vote again. The restitutions would have included the fines and charges associated with their charges.
HB 1900 would require hunters to pay a fine if their dog trespasses on private property.
Bills allowing the use of marijuana in Virginia failed. HB 1906, SB 908 and SB 1269 called for the decriminalization of simple possession, while HB 1637, HB 2135, SB 841, SB 1298 and SB 1452 involved the legalization of medical marijuana.
Minimum Wage Legislation
Five bills were killed early on in the session that would have increased the minimum wage in Virginia.
Several bills calling for redistricting in an attempt to end gerrymandering were killed.
HB 1983 would have ended a rule nicknamed the “Kings Dominion Law,” which requires schools to start classes after Labor Day unless they get a waiver from the Virginia Department of Education. SB 1111 attempted to expand the reasons districts could apply for the waiver.
Bills such as HB 1534 and SB 995 would have limited schools’ use of long-term suspensions to punish students. HB 1536 would have prohibited students in preschool through grade three from being suspended for more than five school days or being expelled except for serious crimes.
Bills that passed but have been (or may be) vetoed:
Governor McAullife has vetoed a bill that would have required voters to submit photo ID when requesting a physical absentee ballot.
According to McAullife, HB 1428 is "substantively unchanged" from a bill he vetoed in 2015.
HB 2000 would prohibit local governments from designating themselves as “sanctuaries” for illegal immigrants. The bill says localities cannot adopt ordinances that would restrict the enforcement of federal immigration laws.
Explicit School Materials
The governor plans to veto a bill (HB 2191) that would require parental notification before explicit material was shown in classrooms.
McAuliffe has vetoed HB 1582, which sought to allow active duty or discharged military service members between the ages of 18 and 20 to apply for a handgun permit.
Planned Parenthood Defunding
The governor vetoed HB 2264, which called for defunding Planned Parenthood. The House tried to override the veto but failed because an override requires a two-thirds majority.
Religious Freedom/Solemnization of Marriage bill
HB 2025 and SB 1324 would protect religious organizations and ministers who refuse to marry same-sex couples, stating that no person should be required to participate in the solemnization of any marriage.
HB 1578, already vetoed by McAuliffe, would have allowed home-schooled students to play sports at their local public high school.
Bills that passed but the governor may want to amend
Fines for “Left-Lane Bandits”
HB 1725 would impose a fine on drivers going too slowly in the left lane. The bill suggested a $250 fine; McAuliffe suggested making it to $100.
HB 1500 revised the state budget for 2016-18. It closes a budget shortfall, increases funding for education and gives pay raises to state employees, teachers and law enforcement officers. McAuliffe praised legislators for doing that but said, “I remain concerned that the state budget includes no additional funding to provide local and regional jails with the tools and training to perform mental health screenings and assessments.”