Thursday, July 20, 2017

Update on New Laws for 2017

They say it's your birthday
It's my birthday too, yeah
They say it's your birthday
We're gonna have a good time
I'm glad it's your birthday
Happy birthday to you

~The Beatles, "Birthday"

Every July 1st I step out my front door and remind myself that the grass is just as green as the day before, the sky is the same shade of blue, and everything really isn’t all that different than it was the day before. It’s just that it’s my birthday, so I have to start using a new number to describe my age.

July 1st is also significant in that it is the day that all the new laws that the General Assembly passed and the Governor signed officially become law. And because things don’t really seem that different this month than they were in June, let me highlight a few of the things we did in Richmond during the last session that just might change your life.

If you found a great new summer cocktail recipe that calls for the highest proof liquor available, you can now head out to the local ABC Store and buy spirits with a proof as high as 151.

Sticking with that theme, if you’ve ever walked into a bar starving for something to eat, only to be told the kitchen is closed: businesses with mixed beverage licenses are now required to have food available until at least 30 minutes prior to closing.

Have you have bought a concert ticket for the band you loved in the ‘80s and‘90s on impulse, without checking with your significant other first? Did they tell you, “No, you can’t go. What were you thinking?” Well, we just made it easier for you to more freely resell your concert or event tickets online via whatever website you choose. You’re also protected from discrimination or being denied admission to a concert or event if you purchased resold tickets.

Have you ever received a ticket for an expired pet license because you forgot to mail in the $5.00 renewal form? Counties and cities must now provide the option of a lifetime license for a dogs and cats. The law also sets the maximum fee for these licenses at $50.

For those of you that head out some weekends to the countryside to hunt, blaze pink is now an accepted hunting apparel color during firearms deer hunting season.

Renewing your vehicle registration? We’ve added still more choices to personalize your plate. Supporters of the Virginia Nurses Foundation or highway safety initiatives, can now get a special license plate at the DMV.

Those are some of the lighter issues we tackled this session. We had some serious issues to address as well.

I fought hard on the floor of the House to defend a bill that requires school principals to notify parents of any allegations of bullying within 5 school days. The allegations may turn out to be just that, but we believed that giving information to parents, of both the alleged victim and the alleged bully, would actually help bring these investigations to quicker resolution and enhance student safety.

We’ve brought some new standards to the way we handle evidence in sexual assault cases. Law enforcement agencies must inform victims of their right to have the evidence recovery kit stored for 10 years and the agency must notify the victim 60 days prior to the scheduled destruction date.

In an era where seemingly routine traffic stops have become fraught with peril for law enforcement officers and drivers alike, we modified the public school Driver Education curriculum to include specific instruction on what to do if you’re stopped by a law-enforcement officer. The training will include general procedures and appropriate interactions.

Many parents who work can have more confidence that the people watching their children have been appropriately vetted. Child care providers are now required to get fingerprint-based national criminal history background checks on those that apply for employment or volunteering.

Finally, if you are concerned that the house next door is being rented out for parties every weekend, or you can’t tell whether the occupants are coming or going, there may be something you can do about it. Localities can now adopt ordinances to regulate short-term rental properties like those used on Airbnb. In fact, Fairfax County is considering adopting some regulations - they are also taking comments on this via an online survey until August 31st.

The Division Legislative Services (DLS) prepares a summary of these new laws called In Due Course. While I’ve only highlighted a few relevant pieces of legislation, the full summary from DLS can be viewed online.

As always, if you have questions about this legislation or if you have ideas for something I can introduce during the next General Assembly Session, please contact my office at (571) 327-0053 or