Friday, July 19, 2024

New Laws in 2024 Part 2

Ideas for legislation come from so many sources – constituent casework, conversations with a colleague, a community meeting, or even an NPR segment. While not all bill ideas are created equal, the general idea is to improve the lives of all Virginians whether we’re tweaking an existing law to avoid unintended consequences or creating a whole new Code Section to address a larger issue.   

Building on my article at the beginning of the month, here are some additional laws that went into effect on July 1st. Chances are, one or more of them will affect you or someone you know.  

Reducing Costs for Virginians 

Housing affordability and helping families avoid eviction has become a hot topic these last several years. To that end, we extended Virginia’s Eviction Diversion Pilot Program, giving the Virginia Housing Commission more time to assess its effectiveness, and perhaps recommend extending it further.   

If the Governor issues a state of emergency, electric, gas, water, and wastewater utility companies are prohibited from disconnecting service to a residential customer for nonpayment of bills or fees during said emergency. The suspension will last for 30 days after such declaration of the state of emergency.   

To reduce predatory towing, towing operators for a multifamily dwelling unit parking lot must post a written notice on a vehicle, providing at least 48 hours' notice to a resident prior to removing a resident's vehicle. This is specifically for vehicles with an expired registration or expired vehicle inspection sticker. The landlord must also receive a copy of such notice.  

Telephone companies that operate within local correctional facilities must now reinvest their net profits into each facility for educational, recreational, or medical purposes for the benefit of incarcerated individuals. This can include programs related to behavioral health, substance abuse, reentry, and rehabilitative services. This will reduce price gouging in these facilities while helping inmates get their lives back on track.  

Empowering Localities 

Local governments can now adopt an ordinance to support the planting and replacement of trees during the land development process by allowing a tree canopy fund, on both public and private property. The law also makes it easier to collect tree canopy funds while expanding the canopy credit.  

Another tool to curb predatory towing, localities have the authority to create a permitting system for all towing companies to better track them and hold them accountable.  

Counties that that do not maintain their own roads are now allowed to reduce speed limits to less than 25 miles per hour in business or residential districts. Localities can also restore a speed limit that was previously reduced. 

Making Virginia More Welcoming and Inclusive 

Reinforcing our non-discrimination laws, no one who is authorized to issue a marriage license can refuse to fulfill their obligation based on a couple’s sex, gender, or race. The law also requires that these marriages be recognized by the Commonwealth.  

Families that receive assistance through Medicaid or the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children are also automatically eligible to receive assistance through the Child Care Subsidy Program.  

We amended the financial eligibility standards for those receiving the Family and Individual Support Waiver, Community Living Waiver, and Building Independence Waiver (the DD Waivers). This increases the number of people eligible to receive DD Waivers and requires a report on how many Virginians could benefit from changes to the eligibility standards.  

To ensure our most Virginians living with disabilities get the support and resources they need, a new law requires state agencies to seek federal authority to update Home and Community Based Services Waivers to remove burdensome regulations on parental caregivers.   

Protecting the Vulnerable 

Emergency services providers must now provide a behavioral health assessment, as well as further examination and treatment, when treating a patient. This will help ensure that a patient’s mental health doesn’t deteriorate while receiving emergency treatment.  

Elderly and vulnerable adults can submit and update a list of trusted persons that financial institutions can contact in the case of suspected financial exploitation. The law also permits financial institutions to train staff on how to identify and report suspected cases of financial exploitation. New training guidelines will be published on January 1, 2026.   

Local school boards are required to develop policies that ensure high school students learn to prevent and reverse an opioid overdose. The policy encourages students to complete this program before graduating.  

If you have questions about one of these new laws, please don’t hesitate to contact my office. Or if you’ve got a bill idea you’d like to share, I’m all ears! Although we’re limited in the number of bills we can introduce (15!) during the 2025 Session, hearing from constituents is always helpful in putting together my legislative agenda.  

Friday, July 5, 2024

New Laws in 2024

On July 1st, several new laws went into effect across the Commonwealth of Virginia, including some that may impact Falls Church residents as they go about their daily lives.

The changes impact a wide range of areas, from animal welfare to higher education, reflecting the evolving priorities and values of Virginians. Here's a look at some of the key legislative updates that Falls Church residents should be aware of.

Animal Welfare

Fans of the News Press’s “Critter Corner” will appreciate a significant shift towards promoting animal rights and safety.

Declawing cats is now illegal unless it's deemed necessary for health reasons. This measure aims to protect cats from unnecessary harm and improve their welfare.

Localities have been empowered to create public online registries for individuals convicted of felony animal cruelty crimes. This initiative seeks to enhance public awareness and prevent further abuse.

On a somewhat related topic, a change championed by some of our rural neighbors in the western part of the state allows residents to legally claim roadkill, such as deer or possum, for personal use.

Casino Regulations

While area residents continue to monitor efforts to allow a casino here in Northern Virginia, effective July 1, Richmond is no longer eligible to host a casino after two failed referenda. A related change that may become relevant in our area someday says any jurisdiction that has had a failed casino referendum must now wait three years before attempting another vote. Petersburg will now take Richmond's place as a potential casino location.

Public Safety

Efforts to enhance public safety and address crime have led to the following changes:

One recommendation of the Governor’s Commission to Combat Anti-Semitism that failed to pass the Republican-controlled House of Delegates last year will become law this year after a change in partisan control of that body. The definition of a hate crime now includes ethnicity. This broadened scope aims to offer greater protection to diverse communities.

Starting July 1, driving without insurance in Virginia will no longer be an option. Previously, Virginians could register as uninsured drivers by paying an annual $500 fee to the Department of Motor Vehicles. However, this option will be eliminated. The DMV estimates that approximately 6,000 drivers will need to provide proof of insurance or face potential license suspension.

Local police agencies can install photo speed monitoring devices at high-risk intersections. This move is intended to reduce traffic violations and improve road safety.

Jury Duty Exemption Age Increase: The age at which citizens can be exempt from jury duty has been raised from 70 to 73, potentially expanding the pool of available jurors.

"Lucia’s Law" increases the penalty for parents who fail to secure their firearms. Passed with bipartisan support as SB 44 and HB 36, the law makes it a felony for adults to allow a child access to a firearm after being notified that the child poses a threat of violence.

The law is named after Lucia Bremer, a Henrico eighth grader shot nine times by a 14-year-old boy using his father's gun on March 26, 2021. Previously, Virginia law only prohibited recklessly leaving a loaded, unsecured firearm around children under 14, without specific storage or locking requirements.

An auto sear is a device that converts a semi-automatic handgun into a machine gun capable of firing hundreds of rounds per minute. Virginia law now prohibits the manufacture, sale, and possession of auto sears.

Consumer Protection

Several new laws will impact how food and alcohol businesses operate:

Home-Based Food Businesses: Entrepreneurs who prepare food in their private homes can now advertise online and sell their products at temporary events or farmers markets.

Permanent Cocktails to Go: The popular pandemic-era provision allowing cocktails to go has been made permanent. However, the allowance for third-party delivery of these cocktails will end on July 1, 2026.

Utility Service Protections: It is now illegal for utilities to be shut off during extreme heat or when temperatures drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. This measure aims to protect vulnerable populations during harsh weather conditions.

Higher Education

Significant reforms in higher education have also taken effect:

Banning Legacy Admissions: Virginia's public universities will no longer practice legacy admissions, promoting a more equitable admissions process.

NIL Deals for Student Athletes: Virginia universities can now compensate student athletes through name, image, and likeness (NIL) deals without fear of NCAA sanctions. This law aims to provide fair compensation for student athletes' contributions.

Reproductive Health & Education

Menstrual Health Data Protection: The use of search warrants to access menstrual health data stored in period-tracking apps is now prohibited, ensuring greater privacy for individuals.

Menstrual Education: School Boards now have the authority to include information about menstrual periods in health education for students in grades 4-8. This initiative aims to provide young students with essential knowledge about their bodies.

These new laws represent a diverse array of changes that reflect Virginia's commitment to enhancing the welfare, safety, and opportunities for its residents. You can view a more comprehensive list of new laws online at

Friday, June 21, 2024

Primaries, Graduations, & Education Funding, oh my!

Congratulations to the winners of this week’s primary elections, especially Gerry Connolly in the nearby 11th Congressional District. Gerry has been an amazing representative for Fairfax County and Northern Virginia and I’m sure he will continue to make us all proud. 

Congratulations also to Suhas Subramanyam, who will be campaigning to succeed my friend Jennifer Wexton in the 10th Congressional District, and Eugene Vindman, who will try to hold on to the 7th Congressional District seat currently held by Abigail Spanberger (who has announced a run for Governor in 2025). 


For a state with a part-time legislature, serving in the House of Delegates is a surprisingly busy job all year round.  


While our regular sessions alternate between 60 and 45 days in January and February, lately we’ve been summoned back to Richmond for Special Sessions more often than not. And with Democrats back in the majority, and my seniority number putting me in the most senior quartile of legislators, I’ve got plenty to do.  


April was the Reconvene Session. May was the budget special session.  Now, we’ve been called back for another Special Session on June 28th to tweak budget language around the eligibility of certain veteran’s family members entitlement to free tuition at Virginia colleges and universities 


When we aren’t meeting in regular, reconvened, or special sessions, we have commission, council and interim committee meetings to attend. 


At this year’s first meeting of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act Council meeting, I was elected Chair. In May, I was elected Chair of the Virginia Code Commission.  


Earlier in June, I spent a lot of time with the 2024 senior classes as I had the honor of participating in their graduation ceremonies. For those with kids or family members who graduated, you might have seen me on stage. I'm extra proud this year as my youngest graduated from McLean High School, which means that Rachel and I will be empty nesters pretty soon! 


As a parent of two (soon to be) college students who went through the Fairfax County Public School system, I've seen firsthand the importance of investing in our kids' education, in our teachers, and in our school support staff. I'm grateful for the teachers and administrators who persevered through the pandemic and who did their best to make virtual classrooms a positive learning environment. 


JLARC Report & Education Funding 


When the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission's (JLARC) education report came out last year (did I mention I was appointed to serve on JLARC too?), it highlighted that Virginia underfunded K-12 education by $4 billion a year. Although we had been increasing teacher pay and investing in school construction in recent years, it was clear that more needed to be done. 


This is why the 2024-2026 Biennial State Budget that we passed last month, and that kicks in on July 1st, is such a big deal - it includes an historic investment of $20.9 billion into our public education system. 


By The Numbers 


This budget has an unprecedented $2 Billion in new investments, including a 6% salary increase over the biennium for teachers and support staff. Falls Church City Public Schools will receive $10.35 million. 


The budget bill also requires the Virginia Department of Education to enter into contracts to deliver high-quality mental health services at public schools. This includes $5 million for school-based mental health integration grants plus $12 million allocated for child psychiatry and children’s crisis response services.


There is also $10 million for the Virginia Mental Health Access Program (VMAP), which addresses shortages of pediatric mental health specialists. This is a $4 million increase from last year! 


We’ve also allocated $370 million for At-Risk Add-On, which supports economically disadvantaged students as well as over $70 million to support English language learners. 


We substantially increased funding for early childhood education to $1.1 billion and passed a separate bill to improve the availability of childcare and early education services. 


During the 2024 Session, we also defeated Republican attacks on our public education system - from proposals to use taxpayer dollars to fund charter schools to underpaying our teachers to a concerted effort to whitewash our history and ban books in our school libraries. 


While there are still some goals from the JLARC report that we need to meet, this year's budget sets us on the right path. I look forward to working with my colleagues to continue our upward trajectory.

Friday, May 17, 2024

Budget Special Session

This week’s Richmond report comes to you from . . .well, Richmond.  The General Assembly returned to the Capitol on Monday for the Special Session to consider the recently released 2024-2026 State Budget.  

Now I know what you’re asking yourself . . . these extra sessions have become such a regular phenomenon, is it really accurate to call them special sessions anymore? Are the really still “special?”  

While I don’t necessarily disagree, that’s still what we call them.  

Although the General Assembly completed its work on time and sent a comprehensive budget to the Governor back in March, the Governor initially attempted to rewrite it with an unprecedented 233 individual amendments. He then threatened the first ever veto of a biennial state budget passed by the General Assembly.  

Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed, and members of the House and Senate have been meeting with the Governor for weeks to create a budget compromise that we could all agree on. In the end, the House of Delegates came out as the big winner in these negotiations, preserving the lions' share of our priorities, with some nods to the State Senate and agreeing not to cross a few red lines put in place by the Governor. 

The House passed the new budget 96-4 and the Senate 39-1. The Governor has already signed it.  

Let’s start with what’s NOT in the budget: 

The new budget does not include the Governor’s proposed sales tax increase - a regressive tax that hits families and lower income people the hardest. 

Also not included is the Governor’s tax giveaway to the ultra-wealthy – a package that would have resulted in nearly $10,000 for the wealthiest 1% while raising taxes for individuals making less than $58,000 per year.  

Unfortunately, the language ensuring Virginia’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is not included. In 2020, we passed legislation to join RGGI, but since then the Governor has refused to adhere to the law. I have heard from many constituents about this, and I absolutely agree that Virginia should be a part of RGGI. Given the Governor’s illegal action here, I have no doubt that lawsuits are pending. 

On the flip side, the new budget does contain many of our priorities that were highlighted in the original compromise budget that passed in March. 

Just last year, a Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) report highlighted that Virginia underfunds K-12 education by $4 billion a year. With this budget, we made significant investments to address this, including funding a 3% pay increase each year for teachers and school employees. Furthermore, Falls Church Public Schools will receive an estimated $10,350,000 for FY 2025, which is about $1 million more than was in the Governor’s original budget. Meanwhile, Fairfax County will receive over $1 billion or about $62.5 million more than the original budget. 

I’m also happy to report that my budget amendment to restore funding for the Student Loan Ombudsman Office (which I helped establish) is included. The Ombudsman provides timely assistance to student borrowers of any student education loan in the Commonwealth.  

We kept the language that authorizes state funding for abortions in cases of severe abnormalities. 

To strengthen our mental health resources, there is $20 million for additional mobile crisis units and $32 million to expand and modernize crisis services provided by Community Service Boards across the Commonwealth. Out of this, $3.6 million will go directly to Crisis Intervention assessment centers in six unserved rural communities. 

Further, we are funding over 3,000 additional I/DD waiver slots to help reduce the Priority One waiting list. And we have $10.2 million for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to help low-income families meet their basic needs. 

The budget also includes $7.6 million for sexual assault and domestic violence prevention programs as well as $2 million in grants for hate crime prevention programs at state agencies and non-profits. 

After a battle over WMATA funding, we secured $318 million to ensure that Virginia continues to pay its fair share, investing in public transportation.  

We kept our promise to state employees by maintaining a 3% raise each budget year. 

To help with housing initiatives, we’ve committed $87.5 million each year to the Housing Trust Fund, which works to preserve affordable housing and reduce homelessness. 

In short, there are a lot of good things we can be proud of in this latest compromise budget. Much can be accomplished when we work together. But to be clear, there is more that we can and should be doing when it comes to investing in our economy and the Commonwealth.