Hundreds of laws went into effect yesterday. Here's how they'll affect you.

By Keya Vakil

July 2, 2019

Hundreds of new state laws take effect today, affecting Virginians from all walks of life. 

If you’re unsure what these laws mean for you, here’s a quick rundown of the most important changes:

627,000 Virginians can get their driver’s licenses back

Virginia will no longer suspend driver’s licenses over unpaid court fines and fees, and will also reinstate the driver’s licenses of more than 627,000 Virginians who previously had their licenses suspended due to the old law. If you’re one of those Virginians, the DMV should be reaching out to you to advise you on how to apply for a new license.

Tax reforms

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 put more money in Virginia government coffers, prompting state lawmakers to reform its tax laws.

As a result, many Virginians will receive a special, one-time refund of $110 this fall (or $220 for couples).

They also increased the standard deduction by 50 percent — from $3,000 to $4,500 for individuals and from $6,000 to $9,000 for couples through 2025. 

Taking on NDAs 

After several years of headlines over the use of stringent nondisclosure agreements to protect sexual abusers, the General Assembly addressed these concerns in its 2019 session. The new law prohibits employers from forcing employees or prospective employees to sign a nondisclosure or confidentiality agreement that is intended to conceal the details of a sexual assault claim. 

Helping tenants 

Following a Princeton University study that revealed five Virginia cities have some of the highest eviction rates in the nation, the General Assembly enacted a comprehensive series of reforms.

The new laws give tenants more time to pay rent and fees ahead of an eviction notice and restrict the number of legal actions landlords can file.

Landlords must also now provide tenants with written rental agreements.

Wages finally climb out of the Jim Crow era

Lawmakers finally passed a bill that eliminates exemptions to Virginia law that said certain jobs such as newsboys, shoe-shine boys, ushers, and doormen did not have to pay minimum wage. These jobs are often held by African Americans and the minimum wage exemption was viewed as a Jim Crow-era relic of discrimination.

Children under two must sit in rear-facing car seats

Infants and toddlers under two years old must now be placed in rear-facing car seats. There are exemptions for children with a special need described in a doctor’s note and for those that meet new, standard weight limits for a forward-facing car seat.

Happy Hour advertising rules loosened 

Bars and restaurants may now advertise their happy hour prices, a practice that was previously prohibited. They can also use “creative marketing techniques,” provided that these techniques do not promote “overconsumption or consumption by minors.”

Smoking age limit increased

Virginia raised the age limit on buying tobacco and vaping products from 18 to 21. The law allows for an exemption for active-duty military personnel, who can still buy those products at age 18.

As of today, tobacco is also completely banned on public school campuses and at all school activities, regardless of where they’re held.

Privacy for lottery winners

If you’re lucky enough to win more than $10 million in the Virginia Lottery, you will now be able to keep your identity private thanks to a new law that prevents the Virginia Lottery from disclosing information about such winners. 

The law also exempts such information from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), unless the winner agrees to the disclosure. 

Car Inspections

The price of annual car safety inspections will inch up, from $16 to $20.

Public schools can now start before Labor Day

Virginia effectively eliminated the “Kings Dominion law,” which required that schools open after Labor Day. The law was enacted in 1986 to protect economic activity in the final weeks of summer, but now every school has the ability to start before Labor Day.

Reporting child abuse 

Religious clergy must now report child abuse, except in cases where their religion requires the information supporting the suspicion of child abuse or neglect to be kept secret.

Combating overdoses

School nurses and regional jail employees will now be able to carry and administer Naloxone, a drug that can reverse opioid overdoses.

Public comment on college tuition increases

Virginia public universities and colleges must now permit public comment on proposed tuition hikes before voting on such increases. 

A comprehensive list of the laws that go into effect today can be found here.

  • Keya Vakil

    Keya Vakil is the deputy political editor at COURIER. He previously worked as a researcher in the film industry and dabbled in the political world.

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