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