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Here's a look at some new and notable laws that take effect July 1 in Virginia

Posted at 1:10 PM, Jun 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-02 05:24:26-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- On Thursday, many bills approved the General Assembly and signed by Governor Ralph Northam will officially be law in the Commonwealth.

Those bills range from alcohol sales to early voting and even recreational marijuana.

Here's a look at some of those soon-to-be laws you might want to take note of.

RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA

Perhaps the most talked about of the new laws coming July 1 is the legalization of recreational marijuana.

Virginia is the first Southern state to do so.

Adults 21 and older will legally be allowed to have up to one ounce of marijuana for recreational use in private.

You will also be allowed to grow up to four marijuana plants in your home, keeping them away from children and clearly labeled.

Under the new laws, anyone who has more than an ounce, but less than a pound, could face a charge.

But retail sales won't be happening until 2024.

The plans to legalize recreational use were outlined in Senate Bill 1406 and House Bill 2312 for years to come, but Northam amended them to expedite it.

Virginia NORML, a marijuana advocacy group, answers more FAQs about the new laws here.

VOTING LAWS

While some states are increasing voter requirements, Virginia is making it easier for people to cast their ballots before Election Day.

“We're going to have one of the more generous periods of early voting in the country right now," explained CBS 6 Political Analyst Dr. Bob Holsworth.

Two new laws that takes effect on July 1 will allow registrars to offer in-person absentee voting on Sundays, and will remove the witness signature requirement on absentee ballots during a public health emergency.

There are also new laws for accessibility, including curbside voting for those with a disability and requiring all localities to have a tool to allow voters with a visual impairment or print disability to electronically and accessibly receive and mark absentee ballots.

“Last year, actually, there was some confusion about the witness signature because they said they had temporarily removed it," said Holsworth. "But if you actually received an absentee ballot, the ballot still said, you should get a signature."

Holsworth said we will have to wait until we're closer to November to see if the witness signature requirement will be required for the gubernatorial election, depending on disease spread of COVID-19 at that time.

However, he thinks having the legal option to remove it, will eliminate some confusion.

But with more people likely to take advantage of early voting, Holsworth thinks the state needs to make it easier for registrars to count those ballots.

"What we saw with 2020 it was very easy to to record and report the votes that took place on Election Day," he explained. "But it took a long time to get the votes in that had come in during early voting.”

When it comes to in-person absentee voting on Sundays, each registrar will be allowed to decide if this is something they want to offer.

"The registrars are going to see what they can do a with their own staffing and what the expectation is in the community," said Holsworth. "But I think you can be assured that you're going to see many communities in Virginia have voting on Sundays because what we've seen over the years, and many places around the country, are these voting campaigns where churches might do "souls to the polls" after services on Sunday. So. I think you're going to see fairly widespread use of this."

EDUCATION

House Bill 1790 allows schools to utilize remote learning during days they have to close for inclement weather or emergency situations so that students don't miss instructional time.

Educators will be evaluated on their cultural competency, as outlined in Senate Bill 1196 and House Bill 1904. The bill requires every person seeking a license from the Board of Education to complete instruction or training in cultural competency with an endorsement in history and social sciences to complete instruction in African American history.

House Bill 1823 requires public schools, child day programs and certain other programs to have carbon monoxide detectors required in each building that was built before 2015.

Under House Bill 1776, teachers can be granted a temporary, two-year extension of their license if it expires on June 30, 2021.

House Bill 1998 reduces the number of mandatory annual lock-down drills in each public elementary and secondary school from three to two.

Each school board in the Commonwealth must adopt a policy that prohibits the board from filing a lawsuit against a student or the student's parent because the student cannot pay for a meal at school or owes a school meal debt thanks to House Bill 2013.

LAW ENFORCEMENT

House Bill 2031 prohibits local law enforcement and campus law enforcement from using facial recognition technology.

Senate Bill 1119 creates a special non-reverting fund to be known as the Body-Worn Camera System Fund to assist state or local law-enforcement agencies with the costs of purchasing, operating and maintaining body-worn camera systems. The bill has an expiration date of July 1, 2023.

There are some changes as to when law enforcement can execute search warrants under Senate Bill 1475. They must only be done between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. unless a judge or a magistrate authorizes it for another time for good cause.

FIREARMS

House Bill 2128 increases the time provided for the Department of State Police to complete a background check before a firearm may be transferred from three business days to five business days.

A person who has been convicted of assault and battery of a family or household member, as defined in the bill, cannot purchase, possess or transport a firearm under House Bill 1992.

House Bill 2295 makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor for a person to carry any firearm or explosive material within the Capitol of Virginia, Capitol Square and the surrounding area, any building owned or leased by the Commonwealth or any office where employees of the Commonwealth are regularly present for the purpose of performing their official duties.

You won't be allowed to have a firearm within 40 feet of any building being used as a polling place, including one hour before and one hour after its use as a polling place, under House Bill 2081.

MISCELLANEOUS

To-go cocktails, something that was made legal during the pandemic to help restaurants stay afloat, will be legal until 2022. This is outlined in House Bill 1879 and Senate Bill 1299.

House Bill 1801 increases the minimum fine for dumping or disposing of litter or trash on public or private property from $250 to $500.

Under House Bill 1848, discrimination on the basis of disability has been added as an unlawful discriminatory practice under the Virginia Human Rights Act.

Drivers of motor vehicles will be required to change lanes when overtaking a bicycle or certain other vehicles when the lane of travel is not wide enough for you to pass at least three feet to the left of the bicycle under House Bill 2262.

Any individual 16 years of age or older, including a corporation, is prohibited from intentionally releasing, discarding or causing to be released or discarded any nonbiodegradable balloon outdoors under House Bill 2159. Any person convicted is liable for a civil penalty of $25 per balloon to be paid into the Game Protection Fund.

Senate Bill 1138 states any person who is diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection and engages in sexual behavior that poses a substantial risk of transmission to another person with the intent to transmit the infection to that person and transmits such infection to that person is guilty of infected sexual battery, punishable as a Class 6 felony.

Eventually, Virginia will have a ban on all single-use plastics. This is outlined in House Bill 1902.

Any person working for a pet shop, dealer or commercial dog breeder can not have a previous conviction of animal cruelty under Senate Bill 1412. It also prohibits pet shops from selling or giving for adoption a dog without first obtaining a signed statement from the purchaser or adopter that they have never been convicted of animal cruelty.

Virginia became the first state in the South to abolish the death penalty. You can view more details on that in House Bill 2263 and Senate Bill 1165.

Another new law taking effect Thursday aims to remove honors for confederates and segregationists. The statue of Virginia governor and U.S. Senator Harry Byrd Sr. in Richmond’s Capitol Square will be taken down.

“It follows along with the trend of Virginia trying to get away from its racist, segregationist past," said Old Dominion African American History Professor Dr. Marvin Chiles.

Byrd coined the term "massive resistance" in the 1950s, and Chiles said removing this monument is a much easier process than taking down confederate statues.

"He used the politics of race to basically keep blacks and poor whites out," said Chiles. "And so it's a lot harder to get rid of statues in honor of the Confederacy than it is to get rid of statues that honor a corrupt political machine that kept Virginia behind the times for so long.”