It was a notable year for the 2019 General Assembly legislative session as lawmakers combed through hundreds of proposed bills. Several of those passed bills go into effect today in Virginia.
Here are some worthy of noting:
RAISING AGE TO BUY NICOTINE PRODUCTS: House Bill 2748 changes the age of buying cigarettes, vaping products and alternative nicotine products from 18-years-old to 21. This law, however, does not apply to members of the military.
CAR SEAT LAW: House Bill 708 has been a huge talker. This requires a child to be rear-facing in the backseat of a car until the age of two. This law complies with the American Academy of Pediatrics that recommends children wait until the age of two to switch in order to protect their head, neck, and spinal cord in the event of a crash. Local officials agree the change will help keep kids safe.
“People worried about their feet hitting, and that’s why they’re really anxious to turn them around,” said Tiffany Bradbury, community risk reduction for Roanoke Fire-EMS.
“Also, parents, as you hit each milestone, you want to rush through. Making kids turn around forward facing too early – we see a lot of injuries that way.”
I-81 FUNDING: Senate Bill 1716 increases diesel, regional, and roads tax to help fund the widely traveled Interstate 81. The law will increase the gas sales tax by 7.6 percent per gallon. A new registration free is also put in place for larger vehicles like tractor trailers. More than two billion dollars has been planned to add lanes, improve existing lanes, and interchanges.
HAPPY HOUR RULES: House Bill 2073 allows restaurants that serve alcohol to advertise happy hour specials. Restaurants will be able to advertise the prices and use marketing to attract customers.
ANIMAL CRUELTY PUNISHMENT: This law raises the penalty for beating, maiming, mutilating or killing a dog or cat to a Class 6 felony. Before this, the penalty was a Class 1 misdemeanor, and an animal had to die before it was considered a felony. Maximum sentences for Class 6 felonies are five years in prison.
DRIVING WHILE TEXTING: This law makes it illegal to hold a phone while driving in a work zone. If you do, you could face a $250 fine. Before today, it was only illegal to read an email, text message or text or to manually text in a work zone for a fine.
ROBO-CALLS: Scammers and robo-callers will start seeing tougher penalties. Starting today, robo-callers that trick you by calling from what looks like local numbers could be forced to pay $500,000 for each charge.
LICENSE REINSTATEMENT: About half a million people will be able to re-apply for reinstatement of their driver’s license starting today. They will not have to pay any new fees, but existing fines will still be on the books. Officials say it will help ensure those looking to go to work and want access to healthcare will have the opportunity to do so.