General Assembly highlights: What passed and what didn’t

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RICHMOND, Va. – During their 46-day session, the Virginia General Assembly passed 880 bills and myriad resolutions ranging from constitutional amendments to the designation of Taekwondo Day. Many more pieces of legislation were tossed out before lawmakers adjourned on Saturday. Here are some key issues and laws that legislators addressed in 2017.

Bills that passed and are likely to become law:

Airbnb Regulation

SB 1578 would require most people renting out their homes on short-term rental sites, like Airbnb, to pay a registration fee in an attempt to regulate these rentals. Failure to do so would result in a fine.

Alcohol Sales

HB 1842 will allow the state’s ABC stores to sell 151-proof grain alcohol, increasing the proof from 101. Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed the bill into law last week. Like most legislation, it will take effect July 1.

Birth Control

HB 2267 would allow doctors to prescribe women 12 months’ worth of contraceptives.

Driver’s License Suspension for Possession of Marijuana

HB 2051, SB 784 and SB 1091 would revoke the current law requiring a six-month suspension of a driver’s license when a person is convicted of marijuana possession. While adults would no longer face that punishment, juveniles will still be subject to license suspension.

Laser Hair Removal Regulation

HB 2119 would limit the practice of laser hair removal to someone under the supervision of a doctor or trained health professional. Virginia and New York are currently the only two states that allow non-licensed professionals to perform laser hair removal.

Opioids

Several bills created to fight against opioid abuse and fatal overdoses were passed. HB 2165 will mandate all opioid prescriptions be electronically submitted to pharmacies, while two other bills call for community organization training to treat opioid overdoses.

Bills that failed:

Animal Tethering

HB 1802 and HB 1877 would have created laws involving how long and when an animal could be tethered outside. HB 1802 would have made tethering a criminal offense.

Electoral College

HB 1425 and SB 837 would have allocated Virginia’s electoral votes in presidential races by congressional district.

Felon’s Voting Rights

SJR 223 would have required convicted felons to pay restitution before they were allowed to vote again. The restitutions would have included the fines and charges associated with their charges.

Hunting Dogs

HB 1900 would require hunters to pay a fine if their dog trespasses on private property.

Marijuana Bills

Bills allowing the use of marijuana in Virginia failed. HB 1906, SB 908 and SB 1269 called for the decriminalization of simple possession, while HB 1637, HB 2135, SB 841, SB 1298 and SB 1452 involved the legalization of medical marijuana.

Minimum Wage Legislation

Five bills were killed early on in the session that would have increased the minimum wage in Virginia.

Redistricting

Several bills calling for redistricting in an attempt to end gerrymandering were killed.

School Calendar

HB 1983 would have ended a rule nicknamed the “Kings Dominion Law,” which requires schools to start classes after Labor Day unless they get a waiver from the Virginia Department of Education. SB 1111 attempted to expand the reasons districts could apply for the waiver.

School Suspensions

Bills such as HB 1534 and SB 995 would have limited schools’ use of long-term suspensions to punish students. HB 1536 would have prohibited students in preschool through grade three from being suspended for more than five school days or being expelled except for serious crimes.

Bills that passed but have been (or may be) vetoed:

Anti-Sanctuary Bill

HB 2000 would prohibit local governments from designating themselves as “sanctuaries” for illegal immigrants. The bill says localities cannot adopt ordinances that would restrict the enforcement of federal immigration laws.

Coal Tax

Identical bills HB 2198 and SB 1470 would have reinstated the Virginia coal employment and production incentive tax credit. It was vetoed for the third year in a row.

Explicit School Materials

The governor plans to veto a bill (HB 2191) that would require parental notification before explicit material was shown in classrooms.

Guns

McAuliffe has vetoed HB 1582, which sought to allow active duty or discharged military service members between the ages of 18 and 20 to apply for a handgun permit.

Planned Parenthood Defunding

The governor vetoed HB 2264, which called for defunding Planned Parenthood. The House tried to override the veto but failed because an override requires a two-thirds majority.

Religious Freedom/Solemnization of Marriage bill

HB 2025 and SB 1324 would protect religious organizations and ministers who refuse to marry same-sex couples, stating that no person should be required to participate in the solemnization of any marriage.

Tebow Bill

HB 1578, already vetoed by McAuliffe, would have allowed home-schooled students to play sports at their local public high school.

Bills that passed but the governor may want to amend

Fines for “Left-Lane Bandits”

HB 1725 would impose a fine on drivers going too slowly in the left lane. The bill suggested a $250 fine; McAuliffe suggested making it to $100.

State Budget

HB 1500 revised the state budget for 2016-18. It closes a budget shortfall, increases funding for education and gives pay raises to state employees, teachers and law enforcement officers. McAuliffe praised legislators for doing that but said, “I remain concerned that the state budget includes no additional funding to provide local and regional jails with the tools and training to perform mental health screenings and assessments.”

By Haley Winn with Capital News Service

Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students participating in the program provide state government coverage for Virginia’s community newspapers and other media outlets, under the supervision of Associate Professor Jeff South.