New laws that start July 1, including ‘Brendon’s Law’
Posted: Monday, June 30, 2014 7:26 am
BY OLYMPIA MEOLA Richmond Times-Dispatch
It was nearly one year ago that 7-year-old Brendon Mackey was killed by a falling bullet while walking with his father to a Fourth of July fireworks show near Swift Creek Reservoir.
In the intervening year, state lawmakers set their sights on celebratory gunfire, passing “Brendon’s Law” that makes a conviction for celebratory gunfire in which a person is wounded a Class 6 felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.
It’s among hundreds of changes in law that take effect in Virginia on July 1, from requiring a photo ID at the polls to overhauling the state’s mental health system.
Starting July 1, voters must present a photo ID to vote. Acceptable forms include a Virginia driver’s license; a U.S. passport or any other photo ID issued by the U.S., Virginia or one of its political subdivisions; a student ID issued by any institute of higher learning in Virginia; or any employee ID card. Voters without one of those forms of ID can apply for a free, state-issued photo ID card with registrars in any locality.
Hybrid car tax
The unpopular $64 annual license tax on hybrid vehicles hits the trash heap July 1. The tax was implemented as part of a major transportation funding overhaul passed last year. After an outcry from drivers, lawmakers this year scrapped the fee, and the state will provide for refunds of the tax paid for registration years beginning on or after July 1.
The legislature approved a proposal to equalize representation on the Richmond Metropolitan Authority, ending a long political battle. The law christens the Richmond Metropolitan Transportation Authority and gives equal representation among Richmond and its neighbors, Chesterfield and Henrico counties.
Implementation of the state’s A-F system to rate schools was pushed to Oct. 1, 2016.
Legislation passed this year also says the Virginia Board of Education should decide, in consultation with the education committees, whether to assign a single letter grade to each school or a series of letter grades based on multiple factors, such as the standards of accreditation, alternative assessment, student mobility and per-pupil funding.
Fewer Standards of Learning tests will be administered to students in grades three to eight as a result of legislation passed this year.
Testing in the early grades will focus more on reading and math, but school boards need to certify that students were given an alternative assessment in the SOL subject areas that no longer require an SOL test.
A Standards of Learning Innovation Committee was created to continually review and make recommendations regarding the state’s assessment system.
Lawmakers rolled back one of the state’s “blue laws” that barred Sunday hunting.
Under the new rules, a landowner and his immediate family or a person with written permission from the landowner may hunt or kill any wild bird or wild animal, including any nuisance species, on the landowner’s property on Sunday.
Hunting within 200 yards of a house of worship is prohibited, as is the use of dogs to hunt deer or bear on Sundays.
The rules changed for holding people involuntarily for mental health evaluations after state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath, was attacked by his son in November. Austin C. “Gus” Deeds, 24, killed himself after repeatedly stabbing his father, 13 hours after being released from an expired emergency custody order.
Lawmakers increased the duration of emergency custody orders from six to eight hours and required the state to find a bed for further temporary detention at one of its mental hospitals. The state then would have an additional four hours to locate a bed at a hospital closer to the person’s home.
The omnibus legislation sponsored by Deeds and a number of other legislators also increased the length of temporary detention orders from 48 to 72 hours and mandated the creation of a Web-based psychiatric bed registry that state mental health officials had promised for years but failed to make happen.
Lawmakers passed an omnibus ethics reform bill that sets a cumulative $250 limit on the amount of certain gifts elected officials can accept. It requires disclosure of gifts given to spouses and immediate family members and increases transparency of financial disclosure forms by putting them online. It also lowers the threshold for reporting of stock holdings and investments on financial disclosure forms from $10,000 to $5,000.
Dominion Virginia Power
Dominion Virginia Power secured legislative permission to write off most of the $570 million it has spent planning for possible construction of a third nuclear reactor in Louisa County. Critics say the accounting maneuver embedded in the legislation may prevent the power company from having to reimburse ratepayers for surplus profits. The utility says approval of the bill would send a signal to go ahead with construction of the plant and says the costs it has incurred would sooner or later be incorporated into rates paid by customers.
New moped rules
Moped and scooter drivers in Virginia do not need to be licensed, but will be required to carry government-issued photo identification. Drivers and passengers will also be required to wear a helmet, as well as a face shield or safety glasses or goggles. Mopeds and scooters operated in Virginia also need to be titled and registered. Titles cost $10, and the annual registration fee is $20.25.
Bicyclists will have more room between them and passing cars under a law that requires motorists to give 3-foot clearance to cyclists. Previously, the law required 2 feet of clearance by passing vehicles.
Virginia is phasing out pens in which dogs chase captive foxes. The legislation passed allows Virginia’s more than 30 pens to keep operating for up to 40 years, but bans new pens.
Pet owners protection
Pet shop or licensed pet dealers will be required to provide breeder information for dogs or cats for sale and to reimburse consumers for some medical costs related to dogs or cats certified by a veterinarian as unfit for purchase. Previous law only required dealers to refund the purchase price or exchange the unfit pet for one of equivalent value.
It is now a Class 1 misdemeanor to disseminate or sell an unauthorized nude or sexually explicit image of another person with the intent to harass, coerce or intimidate the person depicted.
firstname.lastname@example.org (804) 649-6812 Staff writers Michael Martz and Jim Nolan contributed to this report.