RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Several new laws will take effect in Virginia once the calendar hits July 1, including a ban on police ticket quotas, changes for medical marijuana licenses, misdemeanor reporting requirements for school principals, and more.
Lawmakers in the General Assembly introduced and approved measures during the 2022 session. Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed, amended and vetoed the measures once they reached his desk.
With Democrats having a slight majority in the Virginia Senate and Republicans taking back control of the House of Delegates in 2021, lawmakers from both parties wielded their power in those chambers to reject several bills put forward by the other party.
Here are some of Virginia’s new laws taking effect on Friday, July 1:
Virginians will be allowed to get cocktails to-go and alcoholic drinks delivered to them until 2024 after the General Assembly passed a bill that one lawmaker called a “lifeline” to small businesses.
The bill, introduced by Del. David Bulova (D-Fairfax), creates a third-party license that allows the holder to deliver alcoholic beverages bought from businesses with licenses from the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority.
Other measures impacting Virginia ABC, the agency’s licensees and those seeking licenses will also go into effect. These include:
- Legislation creating a third-party license that requires applicants to pass a safety and responsibility course and certify compliance of regulations annually to deliver alcoholic beverages
- Bills creating a new mixed beverage casino license for on-site consumption during all hours of operation and allowing a licensee to give gifts of alcoholic beverages to customers, establishing loyalty or reward programs
- A new law increasing the amount of alcohol someone can bring into Virginia from another state from one gallon to three gallons
Virginia schools have to alert parents if books or other materials their children are assigned have sexually explicit content and provide an alternative option if they want one by 2023.
The measure signed by Youngkin requires the Virginia Board of Education to develop policies by July 31 that will ensure “parental notification of any instructional material that includes sexually explicit content.”
Each local school board must adopt these policies by Jan. 1, 2023.
Earned Sentence Credits (ESCs) expansion
A new law going into effect in July creates a four-level earned credit system that allows people who are incarcerated to reduce their sentences up to 15 days for every 30 days served.
The bill was signed by former Gov. Ralph Northam, but a budget amendment from Youngkin will block hundreds of incarcerated individuals from being eligible to take advantage of Virginia’s new earned sentence credit program.
Facial recognition technology
The General Assembly lifted Virginia’s ban on police use of facial recognition, allowing law enforcement agencies to utilize the technology in certain cases.
These circumstances include when police need help to identify someone “when there is a reasonable suspicion the individual has committed a crime.” The technology can be used to identify victims of crime, including online sexual abuse, sex trafficking and more.
Police won’t be allowed to use facial recognition to monitor people or for surveillance under the new law.
History and culture
State lawmakers approved legislation creating the Virginia Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Historic Preservation Fund, which can give money to state and federally recognized Native American tribes, nonprofits and localities.
The legislation, introduced by Del. Delores McQuinn (D-Richmond) in the House of Delegates and in the Virginia Senate by state Sen. Ghazala Hashmi (D-Chesterfield), overwhelmingly passed through the General Assembly and was signed by Youngkin.
A bill sponsored by McQuinn and state Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) to make historic African American cemeteries that opened between 1900 and 1948 eligible for state funding for preservation and restoration was also signed into law and will take effect in July.
Marcus Alert system
Virginia lawmakers passed a bill earlier this year allowing smaller localities to opt out of the “Marcus Alert” law, a measure passed in 2020 that aimed to improve the response to mental and behavioral health emergencies.
The legislation was named after Marcus-David Peters, who was fatally shot by a Richmond police officer in 2018 while experiencing an apparent mental health crisis alongside Interstate 95. Peters, a 24-year-old teacher, was naked when he charged the officer who shot him.
The law set out to have localities implement a system requiring mental health professionals to join law enforcement when responding to incidents where people were experiencing a mental health crisis.
But state lawmakers agreed to amend the law this year to give localities with populations under 40,000 an opt-out option, citing cost concerns and a shortage of behavioral health workers in smaller localities. Of Virginia’s 133 localities, 89 have fewer than 40,000 residents.
The budget deal approved by Virginia lawmakers and Youngkin creates a new penalty for marijuana possession, making it a misdemeanor to carry more than four ounces of cannabis but less than a pound in public.
A first offense would be a Class 3 misdemeanor, which will leave those found guilty with a criminal record and up to a $500 fine, and a second or subsequent offense would be a Class 2 misdemeanor, which could bring up to six months in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.
Starting in July 2021, people 21 and over in Virginia were allowed to possess up to an ounce for personal use but could face a $25 civil penalty if caught with more.
Virginians who want a medical marijuana license won’t need to register with the state starting in July, but there will still be steps they have to take.
A bill signed into law by Youngkin will lift Virginia’s requirement for patients to register with the state’s Board of Pharmacy for a license. People will still need approval from one of the nearly 750 medical cannabis practitioners registered in the state, the first step in the current process.
The change will allow medical cannabis patients to buy marijuana products from dispensaries after receiving a certificate from a registered practitioner. On top of letting them avoid waiting for a license from the board, a process that can take months, the law will also allow patients to not have to pay a $50 application fee.
Misdemeanor reporting for school principals
Virginia school principals will have to once again report certain misdemeanors to law enforcement after Democrats in the state Senate voted with Republicans to pass one of Youngkin’s legislative priorities.
It was one of many proposals backed by Youngkin to roll back a law giving principals and superintendents discretion on reporting some misdemeanors that occur on school grounds.
Under the current law, administrators have to report felonies but have discretion when referring students to law enforcement for misdemeanor-level offenses in Virginia. These include assault and battery, threats made against school employees, alcohol or drug use, and stalking.
Virginia lawmakers voted earlier this year to exclude criminal investigative files from completed cases from public records requests under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.
Records requested by the press and members of the public in these cases will rely on law enforcement agencies granting access to them.
Individual votes of Virginia Parole Board members will be available for public record starting in July, legislation pushed by state Republicans after controversy in 2020 plagued the board.
A similar effort failed in 2020, but lawmakers passed the measure earlier this year and it was signed by Youngkin. The governor vowed to make changes to the board once he was sworn in, a promise he backed up by firing the entire board and appointing new members.
Police ticket quotas
Virginia lawmakers overwhelmingly approved legislation that bans police and sheriff’s departments from requiring a specific number of tickets and arrests from their officers.
The new law going into effect July 1 also ensures that arrest numbers or summonses issued by an officer will not be used as the sole criteria for reviewing job performance.
Sexually explicit material
Starting in July, any adult who knowingly sends “an intimate image” electronically to another adult without their consent could face a financial penalty.
Such an act will be “considered a trespass and shall be liable to the recipient of the intimate image for actual damages or $500, whichever is greater, in addition to reasonable attorney fees and costs,” according to the bill.
Under the legislation, an “intimate image” is considered any photo, film, video, recording, digital picture or other visual reproduction of an adult who is naked.
Virginia’s longtime ban on switchblades will end in July but people won’t be able to conceal the knives from view.
Youngkin signed a bill on March 11 from state Sen. Todd Pillion (R-Washington) that lifts the ban by removing switchblade knives from a list of outlawed weapons in the commonwealth.
Pillion’s bill passed with only three lawmakers in the 140-member General Assembly voting against the measure. But efforts to end the ban on switchblades, folding knives that easily open from their handles with a touch, have failed in the past after getting through the General Assembly.
A law taking effect July 1 will allow hunting on public land in Virginia on Sundays. Lawmakers passed the bill in March and Youngkin signed it in April.
The Virginia General Assembly voted in 2014 to allow hunting on Sundays, but only on private property and with the landowner’s written permission.
The new law eliminates restrictions on Sunday hunting on public land but keeps the existing restrictions on using dogs or hunting within 200 yards of a place of worship.
A new law will change how absentee ballots are counted in Virginia, requiring local election officials to report them by precinct instead of putting them into one centralized precinct.
Another law taking effect requires the removal of dead people from voter rolls every week instead of once a month.