Smith Gives Summary of New State Laws

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During this year’s “short” legislative session, the General Assembly considered 1892 bills and hundreds of resolutions. Ultimately 888 bills were signed into law by Governor Bob McDonnell after they passed the House of Delegates and the Senate.

The vast majority of these new laws went into effect on Friday, July 1. Folowing are brief summaries of some of the new laws that Senator Ralph Smith says he is most frequently asked about – but does not necessarily support. Smith introduced bills that resulted in new laws in the areas of crime prevention, transportation, property rights and voting regulations.

Alcohol

Drivers under 21 that drink and drive (.02% BAC limit) will now face class 1 misdemeanor charges, must forfeit their driver’s license for one year, and pay a mandatory minimum fine of $500 or serve 50 hours of community service.

Properly licensed restaurants will be allowed to let customers bring their own wine and charge a “corkage fee” for the service.

Agriculture

Agricultural produce and eggs will be exempt from both the sales and use tax and the litter tax when sold in farmers markets or at roadside stands, provided the seller’s annual income from the sales does not exceed $1,000.

New animal care standards will require the owner of an agricultural animal to provide feed to prevent malnourishment, water to prevent dehydration and veterinary treatment as needed to address impairment of health or bodily function when such impairment cannot be otherwise addressed through animal husbandry.

Crime

The Attorney General will now be empowered to investigate complaints of elder abuse against victims in nursing facilities that receive Medicaid or Medicare dollars, regardless if the victim individually receives those benefits.

Courts will now be required to order restitution to be made to the Department of Medical Assistance Services for any loss caused by a felony conviction of making a false statement or representation in applications for payment under Medicaid.

Synthetic marijuana, also known as “Spice” or K2, is now illegal to buy, sell, manufacture, or posses. This bill included an “emergency clause” so it immediately became law on March 23.

The statute of limitations for pursing civil actions for sexual abuse committed during the infancy or incapacity of the abused person has been increased from 2 years to 20 years from the time of the removal from the infancy or incapacity.

Education

Roanoke City may now choose to start the school year before Labor Day.

Firearms

One firearm, not to exceed $3,000 in value, may be on the list of items that every householder shall be entitled to hold exempt from the bankruptcy or creditor process.

Good Government

The civil penalties for willfully and knowingly violating the Freedom of Information Act have been doubled.

Health/Medical

Health insurers, health care subscription plans, and health maintenance organizations will be required to provide coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorder in individuals from age two to six, subject to an annual maximum benefit of $35,000 of coverage for applied behavior analysis.

The cap on recovery in medical malpractice lawsuits will increase from $2 million to $2.05 million on July 1, 2012. The cap will continue to increase $50,000 annually until it reaches $3 million.

The State Corporation Commission has been directed to establish limitations on the authority of electric utilities to terminate electric service to the residence of a customer who has a serious medical condition or resides with a family member with a serious medical condition.

Illegal Immigration

Any business with more than 50 employees with a state contract valued over $50,000 will be required to register and participate in the federal E-Verify program starting December 1, 2013.

Property Rights

State agencies seeking to exercise eminent domain will be required to provide all of their appraisals to the property owner and if the property is not used for a public use within 20 years of the taking, it must be offered back to the former land owner at fair market value.

*Although not a new law, this year the General Assembly passed a resolution calling for a strong constitutional amendment protecting property rights. The General Assembly must pass an identical resolution next year and then be approved by voters in a statewide referendum before the amendment can be added to the Constitution.*

Transportation

Inmate labor may now be used to provide maintenance work at rest areas. All plans for such activities shall take into consideration the “safety of the traveling public.”

State Police will no longer have to visit truck weigh stations to issue overweight citations written by DMV employees. Now the DMV employees will be able to issue the citation themselves.

New license plates will become available from DMV including those for Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway and supporters of the James River Park System. Other newly available plates will include ones that read DONT TREAD ON ME and IN GOD WE TRUST, as well as plates marking the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the centennial of Fort Belvoir.

Motorcycles, mopeds and bicycles will be allowed to proceed through red lights so long as the rider comes to a complete stop for 120 seconds, treats the light as a stop sign and determines that it is safe to proceed.

Voting

The State Board of Elections and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries will make voter registration application forms available where hunting and fishing licenses are sold.