30 Bills: A Look at How Democrats Have Reshaped Virginia in Five Weeks

Feb 12, 2020

 

Credit Steve Helber / AP

 

It’s halfway through a historic legislative session in Richmond, which means it’s a good time to take stock of what the new Democratic majorities have managed to pass.  

Below is a round up of measures that have, in some form or another, been given the stamp of approval from a majority of lawmakers in both the House of Delegates and the state Senate. While there are still a few hurdles in the legislative process, there is a good chance many of these measures could soon be law. 

Civil Rights

• Employers, lenders, landlords, public housing, etc cannot discriminate against someone on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity 

• Both the House and Senate have repealed a number of racist laws that may no longer be enforced, but are still on the books

Criminal Justice 

• Possession of marijuana would no longer be a crime

• To be charged with grand larceny, a felony, you have to steal $1,000 of goods. Currently it’s $500 

• A judge/court can’t suspend someone’s driver’s license as punishment for certain crimes or nonpayment of fees

Education

• Starting next school year, many localities - and the state - will have to fund more guidance counselors and ESL teachers 

• If you went to high school in Virginia for at least two years you can get in state tuition at Virginia’s public colleges, regardless of immigration or citizenship status 

• Schools have to provide tampons and pads for students for free 

Environment 

• The state will make it easier for local governments, individuals, and businesses to set up and use solar or wind energy. Currently there are caps on the amount of renewable energy each of those entities can use/generate.

• The state will start a carbon cap and trade program, to join other mid-Atlantic and Northeast states as part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative 

Gun Control 

• Background checks are required on all gun sales

• Courts can order a gun temporarily taken away from someone deemed a threat to themselves of others

• Unless you’re a licensed dealer, you can’t buy more than one handgun a month

• If you have a protective order out against you, you’re not allowed to have a gun

Localities are allowed to ban guns in certain areas or for certain events if they choose

• You have to take an in-person class to get a concealed carry permit - online classes no longer allowed 

• The state will create a Gun Violence Intervention and Prevention Fund 

Healthcare 

• The state will create, operate and regulate a new online marketplace for health insurance plans 

• A health insurance company can’t charge someone extra for visiting an out of network doctor if it was an emergency 

• If you’re getting an abortion you no longer have to wait 24 hours, get an ultrasound, or get counseling 

Miscellaneous 

• Election Day will be a state holiday & Lee-Jackson Day no longer will.

• Localities can remove or alter war monuments, which includes Confederate monuments 

• You can’t hold a cellphone while driving 

Reckless driving would be raised from 80 mph to 85 mph 

Voting Rights 

• You don’t have to provide a reason to vote absentee

• You don’t need a photo ID to vote 

• DMV customers will be automatically registered to vote

Workers' & Tenants’ Rights 

• The minimum wage will increase. The House version calls for $9/hr beginning July 1st with a gradual increase to $15/hr by 2023. The Senate version calls for a smaller increase with regional variation.

• The state must develop a “Tenants' Bill of Rights” that every landlord and tenant will sign as part of lease agreements

• There will be more regulation of payday lending, including a lower cap on interest rates and fees

 

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.