RICHMOND, Va. — Starting July 1, new laws are going into effect in Virginia.
Here's a break down of some of the Commonwealth's newest laws.
Child Car Seat
A new law will require children to ride rear-facing car seats until the age of two, or until they meet the minimum weight standards for a forward-facing seat.
The exact wording is as follows:
(Effective July 1, 2019) Any person who drives on the highways of Virginia any motor vehicle manufactured after January 1, 1968, shall ensure that any child, up to age eight, whom he transports therein is provided with and properly secured in a child restraint device of a type which meets the standards adopted by the United States Department of Transportation.
Such child restraint device shall not be forward-facing until at least (i) the child reaches two years of age or (ii) the child reaches the minimum weight limit for a forward-facing child restraint device as prescribed by the manufacturer of the device. Further, child restraint devices shall be placed in the back seat of a vehicle.
In the event the vehicle does not have a back seat, the child restraint device may be placed in the front passenger seat only if the vehicle is either not equipped with a passenger side airbag or the passenger side airbag has been deactivated.
The current law says children under the age of 7 must be secured in a safety seat. It's doesn't specify how old the child should be or their weight to switch to a front-facing car seat.
Under the new law, kids under the age 7 still have to be secured in a car seat but now children must ride rear-facing until the age of 2 or until they meet the minimum weight standards for a forward-facing seat.
Tobacco Purchasing Age
The age for purchasing or possessing tobacco products, nicotine vapor products, and alternative nicotine products is rising from 18 to 21.
There is one exception, any active military personnel who are 18 years or older will still be able to purchase tobacco-related products only if they show a valid identification card issued by the Armed Forces of the United States.
“Raising the legal age for tobacco purchases to 21 is a common-sense way to address this escalating public health concern,” said Delegate Christopher Stolle, M.D. (R-Virginia Beach), who is the patron of House Bill 2748. “The rapid growth of the number of teenagers vaping, at a time when the use of traditional tobacco is at an all-time low, should set off alarms for every parent. This legislation will help to reverse that trend and I thank my colleagues for their support.”
Click here to read the full law.
Surrogacy Law “Jacob’s Law”
A new law will allow an unmarried individual to be an intended parent, paralleling the ability of an unmarried individual to adopt under the adoption statutes.
The law allows same-sex couples or single people to have a child through surrogacy.
The old law only allowed male-female couples to do so.
The new law also contains technical amendments, like it replaced the words "husband and wife" with "spouse" making it easier to transfer embryos between different families.
Hand Held Cell Phone in Work Zone
Drivers will now be prohibited from holding a handheld cell phone in a highway work zone, with certain exceptions.
Drivers caught will face a mandatory fine of $250. The old law prohibits drivers from reading an email or text message or texting. The new law would add holding a cell phone.
The only exceptions include:
- An emergency vehicle while they are working
- The driver is parked or stopped
- The use of factory-installed or aftermarket global positioning systems (GPS) or wireless communications devices used to transmit or receive data as part of a digital dispatch system
- The driver is using a cell phone to report an emergency.
The new law defines "highway work zone" as a construction or maintenance area that is located on or beside a highway and marked by appropriate warning signs with attached flashing lights or other traffic control devices indicating that work is in progress.
"Move Over" Reckless Driving Law
This law increases the punishment for drivers who violate the Move Over law in Virginia.
A driver can be punished if they fail to move into a nonadjacent lane on a highway with at least four lanes when approaching a stationary vehicle displaying flashing, blinking, or alternating blue, red, or amber lights, or, if changing lanes would be unreasonable or unsafe, to proceed with due caution and maintain a safe speed
The old law said the first offense is a traffic infraction punishable by a fine of no more than $250, and a second offense is punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor.
The new law would make all offenses reckless driving, which is a Class 1 misdemeanor.
Heaven Watkins was brutally beaten to death in Norfolk in May of 2018. Legislation named after the 11-year-old will bring changes to how social workers investigate child abuse allegations.
This new law will require caseworkers in an investigation to look back at least five years to see if a child has been abused or neglected in another state.
This law became a reality after a 13News Now investigation.
Suspended License for Unpaid Court Fees
Starting July 1, Virginians will eliminate the suspension of driver's licenses for motorists with unpaid court fines and costs.
This law reinstates driving licenses for more than 627,000 Virginians who currently have suspended licenses.
The old Virginia law mandates the automatic suspension of licenses for unpaid court debt.
The Legal Aid Justice Center of Virginia has sued over the practice, arguing that it unfairly punishes poor people. Supporters of the law say ending the license suspensions would reward criminals.
The change only affects a person’s ability to get his or her driver’s license. It does not eliminate the requirement to pay the underlying court costs and fines.
Additionally, Virginians whose driving privileges are suspended or revoked for other reasons, in addition to failure to pay court fines and costs, will need to meet any other court or DMV requirements to include payment of reinstatement fees to regain their driving privileges.
Click here for more information.
Happy Hour Advertising
This new law will give restaurants in Virginia greater freedom to advertise happy hour drink specials.
Before, bars in Virginia were barred from doing so under state regulations designed to prevent excessive alcohol consumption.
Geoff Tracy, the owner of Chef Geoff's in Vienna, filed the lawsuit with the help of the Pacific Legal Foundation. The foundation welcomed the legislation but still hopes for a favorable court ruling to establish a legal precedent.
If you're charged with abusing an animal in the Commonwealth of Virginia, it will now be a felony.
"Tommie's Law" ups the penalty from a misdemeanor to a Class 6 felony. That carries a punishment of one to five years in jail.
Animal rights advocates say the new law closes a loophole that allowed the perpetrator to only be charged with a misdemeanor if the animal survived the abuse.
"Tommie's Law" is named of a pit bull that was found badly burned and chained to a fence in Richmond earlier this year.
The Virginia Lottery will not be allowed to release certain information about winners whose prize exceeds $10 million unless the winner wants to be known.
Under the current Freedom of Information Act, it is mandatory to disclose the winner's name, hometown, and the amount won.
Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, and Texas all allow lottery winners to remain anonymous. Arizona and Georgia allow lottery winners to remain anonymous after winning a certain prize amount, like Virginia's new law.
Most states have laws allowing the lottery that sold the ticket to make such information public.
Click here for more information.
Here are other laws going into effect
TAMPONS IN PRISON:
A new state law will require the Department of Corrections to come up with new policies that ensure that visitors to state prisons can wear tampons. Last year, the department suspended a briefly introduced policy that would have barred women who visit inmates at state prisons from wearing tampons. Department officials said they prevent contraband from being smuggled into prisons.
MYSTERY LOTTERY WINNERS:
Virginia Lottery winners whose haul is more than $10 million will be able to keep their identities hidden. A new law prohibits the state lottery from releasing a winner's personal information to the public.
The price of getting a car's yearly safety inspection done will go from $16 to $20.
A package of new laws will go into effect aimed at reducing evictions by giving tenants more time to pay rent and fees ahead of an eviction notice and limiting the number of legal actions a landlord may file. The new laws are the result of a push that began last year after a research group at Princeton University found that five cities in Virginia have some of the highest eviction rates in the country.
JIM CROW WAGES:
Virginia's Jim Crow-era exceptions to the state's minimum-wage law are coming off the books. Lawmakers approved legislation that eliminates an exemption in state law that said certain jobs traditionally held by African Americans, including ushers and doormen, didn't have to pay minimum wage.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.