RICHMOND, Va. — Author's note: The video above is on file from December 9, 2022.
Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares announced his office's legislative priorities for 2023 on Tuesday, with many pieces of legislation he plans to endorse focusing on greater consequences for crime.
“This session my office is supporting common-sense legislation that supports law enforcement, prioritizes victims, and makes our communities safer," Attorney General Miyares wrote.
Here's a list of five approved or pending bills in the Virginia General Assembly that Miyares is advocating for:
1) Classifying fentanyl as a weapon of terrorism
A state bill proposed by Del. Scott Wyatt of the 97th District and State Sen. Bryce Reeves of the 17th District would amend the current terrorism statute in Virginia to include fentanyl as a "weapon" by definition.
If this bill passes, the distribution or sale of the highly potent, deadly drug would also be punishable by a felony.
A record number of Virginians died from drug overdoses in 2021, and fentanyl was linked to 76% of them.
In 2022, state health officials estimated the substance would kill close to 2,000 Virginians.
An additional bill that is fentanyl-related is SB 881, which would charge anyone who distributes or sells a Schedule I or II controlled substance that results in the death of a person with felony homicide. (That's considered different from murder or manslaughter.)
In short -- if you sell someone fentanyl, and they die from an overdose, you could be held responsible for their death.
This bill is also endorsed by Miyares. You can read more about that here.
2) Higher mandatory minimums for some firearm charges
Sen. Minority Leader Tommy Norment has proposed a bill that would increase mandatory minimum sentences for certain offenses involving firearms, including bringing a gun onto school property.
While many specific details on this bill are unknown at this point, this tightening of reins comes as bipartisan state and city leaders continue to grapple with solutions for rising rates of gun violence and homicides.
3) No more TikTok on state-owned devices
This is a proposal that has swept across the nation, with more than 20 states banning the use of the popular video app on state-owned devices or being used on any state-owned internet network in recent months.
This comes with growing fears that information could be collected through the app, which is owned by a Chinese company.
Recently, the FBI warned that TikTok could collect user information for espionage operations.
4) Public high school students must pass an American History test to graduate
This is a proposed bill by Del. Lee Ware and Del. Anne Ferrell Tata that is still pending and would require that all public high school students across the Commonwealth pass an American History test before they can graduate.
The test, if approved, would be modeled similarly to the Immigration and Naturalization test that is given to people who seek American citizenship.
More details on this test and specific requirements aren't yet known.
5) Repeal plans for lower-emission vehicle requirements
House Bill 1378 and Senate Bill 779 would take back the requirement of the State Air Pollution Control Board to implement the low-emissions and zero-emissions vehicle program for cars created in 2025 and beyond.
A Virginia law passed by Democrats in August 2022 hopes to require that the state follow California's new regulations (which will phase out sales of new gas-powered vehicles by 2035).
The Clean Air Act allows California to enact its own emission standards for new motor vehicles, pending a waiver approval from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Other states aren't allowed to do that, but they can adopt either the national standards or California's emission standards, which Virginia chose to take on under a state law passed by a Democratic General Assembly and signed by then-Gov. Ralph Northam in 2021.