Column: New Year, New Laws

On Jan. 1, the minimum wage was raised from $9.50 per hour to $11 per hour; and more.

We have just welcomed the new year, giving us a fresh start and endless possibilities, though starting with a big snowstorm and loss of power for many of us may not be so auspicious. But in all seriousness, here’s to a much better year for everyone in 2022!

Indeed, the moment the clock struck midnight on Jan. 1, some important laws that the General Assembly passed during last year’s session became effective for the first time. As we gear up for the start of the 2022 General Assembly session in just one week, it would be remiss of me not to ensure that you are informed about the Commonwealth’s new laws.

One of the most significant changes in 2022 is the continuation of the increase in Virginia's minimum wage. On Jan. 1, the minimum wage was raised from $9.50 per hour to $11 per hour. Under Democratic leadership, Virginia’s minimum wage has seen a 50% increase over the last two years and will have a lasting positive impact on Virginia’s working families.

The minimum insurance coverage required for vehicles in Virginia increased for the first time since the 1970s. For all policies effective from Jan. 1, 2022, to January 1, 2025, the coverage requirements for liability insurance for crashes where one person is killed or injured increase from $25,000 up to $30,000. For cases involving two or more people, the amount rises from $50,000 to $60,000. Make sure to check with your insurance provider to ensure that your policy meets this minimum.

A new five-cent tax on disposable plastic bags took effect in Fairfax County (along with Arlington County and the City of Alexandria — it is a local option) as a measure to reduce the impact of single-use plastics on our environment. This tax will be charged at grocery stores, drugstores, and convenience stores. The money raised will fund environmental cleanup, education, and reusable bags for recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC). 

Starting with this year’s elections, May municipal elections for towns and cities will now be held in November along with the rest of the Commonwealth. The date for primary elections will also shift from the second to the third Tuesday in June.

Another law going into effect bans the use of animals for cosmetic testing in Virginia, which will be followed on July 1 with a ban on the sale of any cosmetics that were developed using animal testing. This law places Virginia as a forerunner in the fight against animal cruelty. Virginia was the fourth state to pass this law, and four more have followed suit since.

The DMV can now issue "identification privilege cards" to non-drivers in the undocumented community. Undocumented children will also now be able to receive an ID. In addition, persons 70 years of age or older may exchange a valid Virginia driver privilege card for an identification privilege card at no fee.

And finally, any section of U.S. Route 1 in Virginia that is still named "Jefferson Davis Highway," after the former president of the Confederacy, will be renamed to "Emancipation Highway"

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