The advent of July means fireworks and a long holiday weekend, but in the Commonwealth of Virginia, July 1 is also the date when budgets are reset and new state laws take effect.
We asked some of Virginia’s nonprofits about the legislation that made its way through the General Assembly this last session and what the new laws mean for Virginians.
An ongoing topic in the General Assembly, two important pieces of legislation passed this session – HB1992 and SB1381. The first prevents anyone convicted of assaulting a family member from purchasing or possessing a gun for three years. The senate bill bans guns in the state Capitol and state buildings, as well as on Capitol grounds. The Virginia Center for Public Safety (VCPS) advocated for and testified in committees for both pieces of legislation.
“HB1992 goes after individuals who have already shown a pattern of violent behavior, which is the single most important predictor of future violent behavior,” said Andrew Goddard, legislative director of VCPS. “Before this law, those individuals were considered too dangerous to purchase firearms, too dangerous to transport firearms, but if they already owned firearms, then that was OK. That makes no logical sense, so the bill adds possession, which should have been part of the law since it was written.”
As it relates back to SB1381, Capitol Square has historically been the home to many peaceful gatherings, but supporters and advocates have felt unsafe in recent years. This legislation codifies firearm restrictions in government buildings that were already in place by an executive order, but specifically adds Capitol Square under the protections.
“The Capitol Square should be a safe gathering place for ALL Virginians, not just heavily armed individuals pretending to be ‘militia’ members,” added Goddard.
Litterbugs, watch out! Thanks to some details in HB1801, the maximum penalty for littering or dumping trash has doubled – from $250 to $500. While Keep Virginia Beautiful wasn’t involved in the legislation, it’s sure excited about what it could mean toward beautifying the state’s byways.
“Most law enforcement will tell you it is very difficult to actually catch someone in the act of littering; however, a concerted effort within the force, an awareness campaign and consistent enforcement could prove to be quite lucrative for any locality,” said Travey Leverty, environmental programs director with Keep Virginia Beautiful. “Until the behavior stops, of course, which is ultimately the end goal. We hope great stories that result from this bill that can be shared and encourage others to take litterers and littering more seriously.”
Let’s keep Virginia looking pretty, y’all!
This made big news when HB1779 and HB2263 were signed because Virginia became the first southern state to abolish the death penalty, including for those persons currently under a death sentence.
“The death penalty is cruel, inhumane and racist,” said Mary Bauer, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia. “The ACLU of Virginia has worked for decades – both in the public eye and behind the scenes – to abolish it, and we’re grateful that lawmakers finally did the right thing. Virginians will no longer be forced to fund this barbaric practice, and more importantly, our government will no longer be allowed to kill under the guise of justice.”
Marijuana is the new hot topic in Virginia, but looking at HB2312 and SB1406, in particular, these bills eliminate criminal penalties for simple possession, modify several criminal penalties related to marijuana and provide an automatic expungement process for those convicted of certain marijuana-related crimes.
Virginia NORML led the effort to legalize cannabis for responsible use by adults in Virginia, and we asked Virginia NORML Executive Director Jenn Michelle Pedini what that means for Virginians.
“On July 1, adults 21 and older will be able to legally consume cannabis in private, possess up to one ounce of cannabis in public, cultivate up to four plants per household for personal use and share with other adults 21 and older in private up to one ounce of marijuana, as long as there is no remuneration,” said Pedini.
An estimated 750,000 more Virginians will have access to dental providers and services thanks to a new adult Medicaid benefit. The new coverage includes preventative and diagnostic treatment, such as X-rays and exams, and oral surgery and prosthodontics, which includes items like dentures.
“The new adult Medicaid benefit is an important step for connecting underserved Virginians with critical preventative, restorative and surgical dental care,” said Dr. Frank Iuorno, Jr., president of the Virginia Dental Association. “Expanding access to oral healthcare is important for all Virginians. No person should have to go weeks or months in pain waiting for treatment.”
Now that’s something to smile about.
These are just a few pieces of legislation that went into effect on July 1, 2021. If you’re looking for more details surrounding the General Assembly and policy and impacts Virginians, consider following the nonprofit news outlet The Virginia Mercury. Visit its website or follow it on Facebook and Twitter.
At the date of this publication, Virginia Dental Association is a client of The Hodges Partnership.