The Effort to Remove Virginia's Outdated Laws

Jan 22, 2020

Credit AP Photo / Steve Helber

The Virginia General Assembly is celebrating its 401st year. It has plenty of relics, including many old and outdated laws.

Some of Virginia’s laws have been around so long that they’re outdated. Others reflect old-fashioned thinking.

Delegate Dawn Adams is targeting several this year, taking aim at a law that requires drivers to honk their horn when they pass other vehicles. And another bill to legalize spitting in public places. One of her bills reduces criminal penalties for stealing milk crates.

“There’s a like special carve out and protection for milk crates, an additional penalty that’s pretty substantial," she says. "So I don’t know if most of the college kids know that. But nowadays you can go to Target and get a milk crate for $8. So why would you want to potentially have a fine of $250?”

Some of Virginia’s outdated laws are from the bad old days of Jim Crow, like the one that allows domestic servants to be paid less than the minimum wage.

Delegate Cia Price has a bill that would overturn that exemption. 

“Domestic workers have hard jobs as home healthcare workers, nannies, house cleaners and cooks," Price explains. "And their work really allows for other people to do their work. So it’s foundational to our economy really being able to run, and they should be fairly compensated.”

Price’s bill is a follow up to an effort last year that overturned Jim Crow era exemptions to the minimum wage for shoeshine boys, ushers and doormen.

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