Virginia General Assembly in Richmond

Virginia’s General Assembly recently concluded two sessions, passing measures to legalize recreational marijuana and establish COVID-19 relief efforts.

Here are some notable bills sponsored by lawmakers from Loudoun County’s 11-member delegation that were signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam (D).

Commerce & Labor

SB 1284 — Commonwealth Clean Energy Policy; established

The bill will establish the Commonwealth Clean Energy Policy that would replace the Commonwealth Energy Policy. The bill is targeted to address climate change and provide objectives toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions across the commonwealth’s economy sufficient to reach net-zero emission by 2045 in all sectors.

Additionally, the bill is targeted to focus on promoting environmental justice throughout Virginia and the need to address and prevent energy inequities in historically economically disadvantaged communities.

Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31st) carried the bill.

SB 1413 — Phase I or Phase II electric utilities; provision of broadband capacity

A bill to permanently allow electric utility companies to petition to the State Corporation Commission to provide broadband capacity to unserved areas of the Commonwealth is also for review.

The bill would also expand the program to allow for the participation of municipalities and government-owned broadband authorities, and allow investor-owned electric utilities to recover costs of and revenue generated from providing broadband capacity that serves as an electric grid transformation project in areas unserved by broadband, as defined in the bill.

Sen. Jennifer Boysko (D-33rd) carried the bill which is identical to HB 2304, will go into effect July 1.

HB 2032 — Employees providing domestic service; application of laws applicable to employee safety

A measure to make sure people who are providing domestic service are not excluded from employee protection laws and the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act.

Del. Wendy Gooditis (D-10th) sponsored the bill that will go into effect July 1.

Counties, cities and towns

HB 2053 — Affordable & market-rate housing; DHCD to evaluate growing demand

The bill would direct the Department of Housing and Community Development to create a stakeholder advisory group to evaluate the construction of internal, attached, and detached accessory dwelling units as a strategy to address the Commonwealth’s growing demand for affordable and market-rate housing, the bill reads.

The advisory group’s findings and recommendations would be due no later than Nov. 1 to the director of the Department, the Secretary of Commerce and Trade, the commissioners of the Virginia Housing Development Authority, and the Virginia Housing Commission.

Del. Ibraheem Samirah (D-86th) carried the bill.

Education

SB 1387 — Students; eligibility for in-state tuition (Boysko)

The governor signed SB 1387, which will allow students who are eligible for in-state tuition regardless of their citizenship or immigration to be afforded the same educational benefits, including financial assistance programs.

The bill is identical to HB 2123. The bill has a delayed effective date of August 1, 2022.

HB 1865 — Kindergarten through grade 3; reading intervention services for certain students

Reading intervention services will be required to provide service for students in kindergarten through grade three who demonstrate reading deficiencies. These deficiencies can be found on their individual performance on the Standards of Learning reading test or any reading diagnostic test that meets criteria established by the Department of Education.

Del. Karrie Delaney (D-67th) carried the bill.

HB 1980 — Enslaved Ancestors College Access Scholarship and Memorial Program; established, report (Reid)

The bill establishes the Enslaved Ancestors College Access Scholarship and Memorial Program. Beginning in the 2022-2023 academic year, select universities — with any source of funds other than state funds or tuition or fee increases — are required to annually identify and memorialize, to the extent possible, all enslaved individuals who labored on former and current institutionally controlled grounds and property.Additionally, the educational institutions must provide a tangible benefit such as a college scholarship or community-based economic development program for individuals or specific communities with a demonstrated historic connection to slavery that will empower families to be lifted out of the cycle of poverty.

This would apply to Longwood University, the University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, the Virginia Military Institute, and The College of William and Mary in Virginia.

Elections

SB 1097 — Absentee voting; witness signature not required (Favola)

The bill would direct the Department of Elections to create a work group to consider and evaluate alternatives to the witness signature requirement. The signature is required for election officials to verify that an absentee ballot was cast by the voter identified as having requested and received such ballot.

The bill adds that a voter’s failure to have a witness sign the absentee ballot envelope during a declared state of emergency related to a communicable disease of public health threat shall not be considered a material omission and shall not render the ballot void.

The bill will go into effect July 1.

HB 1838 — Loudoun County school board; staggered terms of its members

The bill would allow the Loudoun County School Board to stagger the terms of its members at the November election immediately preceding the end of the board’s term and upon the board’s prior vote for staggered terms.

Del. David Reid (D-34th) carried the bill.

Finance

SB 1279 — Veterans Services, Department of; initiatives to reduce unemployment among veterans

The bill would require the Department of Veterans Services to develop a comprehensive program to assist military service members, veterans, and their spouses in making a successful transition from military to civilian life in Virginia.

The bill also requires that the program prioritize assistance to military service members, veterans, and their spouses who have not sought services from or do not qualify for services under certain federal programs administered by the commonwealth.

Sen. John Bell (D-13th) carried the bill.

SB 1221 — Loudoun County; operation of local health department (Favola)

The Loudoun County Health Department will be permitted to administer its own health department.

The bill will allow Loudoun officials to do additional proactive programming focused on community needs. No changes would be made to the state-mandated services.

Under the current operations, county staff said Loudoun is administering dual systems for the locality and the state employees. The county is challenged in maintaining equity and parity among all employees, which has impacted morale within the department, with some working the same jobs for lower pay.

The health district supports more than 400,000 people through a mix of state and county employees, according to county staff.

HB 1979 — Electric vehicle rebate program; creation and funding, report, sunset date (Reid)

Effective July 1, a purchaser or lessee of a new or used electric vehicle would receive a $2,500 rebate at the time of purchase, the bill reads. The purchaser or lessee with an annual household income that does not exceed 300 percent of the federal poverty level would also be entitled to an additional $2,000 rebate for a new electric vehicle and $500 for a used electric vehicle beginning in taxable year 2022.

The program would expire on Jan. 1, 2027.

Health

SB 1220 — State facilities; admission of certain aliens (Favola)

Effective July 1, the bill repeals the requirements that if the Commissioner of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services determines the nationality of a person admitted to a state facility and, if the person is an alien, to notify the United States immigration officer in charge of the district in which the state facility is located.

HB 2300 — Hospitals; emergency treatment for substance use-related emergencies (Delaney)

The bill would require each hospital with an emergency department that is currently regulated by the commonwealth to establish a protocol for treatment and discharge of individuals experiencing a substance use-related emergency.

Some of the provisions include appropriate screening and assessment of individuals experiencing substance use-related emergencies and recommendations for follow-up care.

Public Safety

HB 1992 — Firearms; purchase, etc., following conviction for assault and battery of a family member (Murphy)

The bill would prohibit a person who has been convicted of assault and battery of a family or household member from purchasing, possessing, or transporting a firearm.

The prohibition expires three years after the date of conviction, the bill reads, at which point the person’s firearms rights are restored, unless he receives another disqualifying conviction. A person who violates the provisions of the bill is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

HB 1909 — School board building or property, certain; establishment of gun-free zone permitted

A bill permitting school boards in Virginia to deem any non-school zone building or property a gun-free zone awaits the governor’s signature.

Law-enforcement officers and qualified retired law-enforcement officers would be exempt from the legislation if signed.

Del. Suhas Subramanyam (D-87th) carried the bill.

Technology

SB 1098, HB 1851 — Unmanned aircraft; exempts an owner from the requirement to register (Favola, Delaney)

The bill would exempt an owner of an unmanned aircraft from the requirement to register aircrafts.

The bills are effective July 1.

Transportation

HB 1832, SB 1259 — Virginia Highway Corporation Act; alteration of certificate of authority, powers and duties of SCC (Subramanyam, Bell)

The Virginia General Assembly passed legislation to amend how the 14-mile Dulles Greenway in Loudoun County is regulated.

TRIP II would be required to share its financial plan for the operation of the roadway and show evidence of its creditworthiness to the SCC, according to SB 1259 and HB 1832.

Subramanyam said in an earlier interview that if TRIP II wants to make any changes or if another entity wants to purchase the roadway, they would be required to show financial fitness to the State Corporation Commission (SCC) before any changes are made.

Any proposed toll rates should be “reasonable to the users in relation to the benefit obtained, not materially discourage use of the roadway, and provide the operator no more than a reasonable rate of return,” according to the bill. If any toll rates fail to satisfy these criteria, the SCC may not approve the refinancing application.

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