Sunday, July 9, 2023
Each year, ahead of July 1st when most laws passed during each year’s legislative session go into effect, the exceptional staff at the Division of Legislative Services prepare a valuable publication entitled “In Due Course.” This publication highlights the new laws that are most likely to affect the daily lives of Virginia’s residents. You can read the complete publication for this year as well as past years online here: http://dls.virginia.gov/pubs_idc.html. I like to provide my constituents with a similar “highlight reel” so they can be well-informed and prepared.
* Expanding the “Move Over” law passed in 2019, which requires motorists to slow down or change lanes for emergency vehicles, it is now mandatory for drivers to switch lanes or slow down when they see any vehicle pulled over on the side of the road with flashing hazards. This law comes at the perfect time, with the July 4th holiday this week and millions of Americans hitting the road.
* There is now a stricter penalty for making false 9-1-1 calls or texts. These false reports not only waste time and resources for first responders but also create dangerous situations that can result in injury or death for innocent Virginians.
* Have you ever signed up for a free trial of a product or streaming service online and then forgotten to cancel it before being charged? Now, any business offering a free trial lasting more than 30 days must notify consumers of their option to cancel within 30 days of the free trial’s end.
* A new law on hospital price transparency is now in effect. Every hospital is now required to make information about standard charges for items and services available on their website. After the passage of federal legislation in 2021 requiring hospital price transparency, fewer than 15% of hospitals had complied as of 2022. This bill creates additional accountability and enforcement on the state level to ensure hospitals comply so that patients no longer have to wonder what treatment will cost.
* This year, the General Assembly introduced protections for living organ donors. Under this legislation, Virginia employers with 50 or more employees must provide at least 60 business days of unpaid leave to eligible workers who donate one or more of their organs. Additionally, employees who donate bone marrow must receive at least 30 business days of unpaid leave. To be eligible, employees must have been employed at their current job for at least a year and worked at least 1,250 hours during the previous year. This law safeguards donors and encourages more Virginians to give life-saving gifts to those in need.
* “The Silenced No More Act,” expands the prohibition of the use of confidentiality clauses related to claims of sexual assault in employment agreements to also cover claims of sexual harassment. This law renders any confidentiality agreements that would prevent discussion of past workplace conduct, work events, or employee-employer null and void.
* Virginia employers are now prohibited from using an employee’s social security number (or any part of it, such as the last four digits) on any identification badge or access card. This measure protects workers who were at higher risk of identity theft due to this practice.
* Virginia has implemented a universal license recognition law, allowing workers in professions requiring licenses or certifications, such as barbers, electricians, and tattoo artists, to utilize an out-of-state license. This is applicable if they have held the license for at least three years, it is up to date, and passing an exam was necessary to obtain the license.
* A process now exists for tenants to terminate a lease and receive a refund of all rents and deposits paid if the property is uninhabitable at the time of possession due to fire hazards or serious threats to the life, health, or safety of tenants or occupants, such as rodent infestation, lack of heat, absence of running water (hot or cold), electricity, or adequate sewage disposal facilities.
* Also in effect is a new rent increase notification. Landlords owning more than four rental dwelling units in Virginia, or having a more than 10% interest in more than four dwelling units, must provide written notice to tenants who have the option to renew a lease or have a lease with an automatic renewal provision of any increase in rent during the subsequent term. This notice must be given at least 60 days prior to the end of the rental term.
* A new law mandates the Virginia Supreme Court to create plain English instructions that explain to defendants how to interpret the Summons for Unlawful Detainer.
* The General Assembly simplified the process for disabled veterans or surviving spouses applying for a tax exemption on real property. Before, an applicant had to apply with the locality once they had already purchased a property. Now, a veteran or spouse can apply for the tax exemption prior to purchasing a qualifying dwelling by filing the required documentation along with documentation of the purchase agreement. Essentially, this bill allows a disabled veteran or surviving spouse to begin the application process while they are still under contract, rather than having to wait until after settlement.
Virginians can now receive a $300 tax credit when they purchase a lockable firearm storage device, incentivizing safe storage and responsible gun ownership.
* Lastly, the General Assembly also designates various emblems that are unique or symbolic of Virginia heritage and culture, like the state folk dance (square dancing) or the state spirit, George Washington's rye whiskey produced locally at Mount Vernon. This year, we recognized the Chincoteague Pony as the new official state pony! If you have an opportunity this summer, go visit them on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.