Virginia Governor Ralph Northam – July


Historic measures include legalization of marijuana, a tuition-free community college, increased access to voting, and expansion of passenger rail

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam highlighted the new laws that come into effect today with the start of the new fiscal year in the Commonwealth. During one of the most significant legislative sessions in modern Virginia history, Governor Northam worked with the General Assembly to advance policies that face the greatest challenges facing Virginians, take action to end racial disparities in Virginia and help the Commonwealth recover from the impacts of the pandemic.

“I am proud of the transformational legislation we passed this year to continue to build a stronger, fairer, more inclusive and more resilient Commonwealth,” Governor Northam said. “As we look to post-pandemic life, Virginia’s future has never been brighter. From taking historic steps to end systemic racism and addressing racial disparities in our criminal justice system to improving access to voting, increasing teacher salaries, With the expansion of passenger rail and the accessibility of higher education, these new laws will have a lasting impact and displace all of Virginia. before.”

Key measures that will take effect on July 1 include:

  • Criminal justice reforms which legalize the simple possession of marijuana and create the Cannabis Control Authority to establish a fair cannabis market, automatically seal certain crimes in an individual’s file, abolish the death penalty, limit the number of active incarcerations for them technical violations of probation and allow convictions by a judge rather than a jury in some criminal cases.
  • Increase access to the ballot box with Virginia’s Voting Rights Act and measures that reduce barriers to absentee voting and allow communities access to early voting on Sundays.
  • Support teachers and students giving educators a five percent pay rise, increasing the number of school counselors, providing cultural skills training for teachers, giving middle and high school students one day off per school year to participate in civic or political engagement activities and prohibiting schools from suing students or their families because the student cannot afford a school meal or owes a school meal debt.
  • Reinforcement of workers’ protections including the Virginia Overtime Wage Act, paid sick leave for home health care workers, and a ban on employers taking retaliatory action against employees who use the time off. New measures also ensure that domestic workers are covered by employee protections, fair compensation laws and the Virginia Human Rights Act. Virginia is also extending workers’ compensation eligibility to first responders who contract COVID-19 on the job.
  • Accelerating the Transition to Renewable Energy in Virginia by establishing the Commonwealth Clean Energy Policy and requiring automakers to sell a certain percentage of electric or hybrid passenger cars.
  • Transform passenger rail creating the New River Valley Passenger Rail Station Authority to support the expansion of passenger rail transportation west of Roanoke.
  • Advancing the rights and representation of LGBTQ + Virginians creating the Virginia LGBTQ + Advisory Board, striking the discriminatory LGBTQ + ‘panic defense’, ensuring equal access to aging services for LGBTQ + seniors, facilitating adoption for unmarried LGBTQ + couples, and modernizing laws outdated criminal law relating to people living with HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
  • Make higher education accessible to all Virginians with the G3 program, which offers a tuition-free community college to low- and middle-income students pursuing studies in high-demand fields. Other measures prohibit public higher education institutions from inquiring about an individual’s criminal record during the application process, prohibit colleges and universities from refusing admission based on a criminal record, and establish a criminal record. program to provide scholarships to families of enslaved individuals who worked in colleges in Virginia. .

Summaries of key laws prepared by the Legislative Services Division are available here. Learn more about the new laws related to the Department of Motor Vehicles here. Information on a new law requiring motorists to change lanes to overtake cyclists can be found here. New laws impacting the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority can be found here.

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