11 Notable New State Laws Effective July 1, 2019

Virginia flag waving in the wind.

Several new laws became effective in Virginia and in our county on July 1. We’ve highlighted a few for you to be aware of (with Virginia House or Senate bill numbers in parentheses if you want to look up more details).

1.) Handheld Cellphone Use in Work Zones

This new law prohibits anyone from holding a handheld personal communications device in their hand while driving a motor vehicle in a highway work zone (with certain exceptions). A violation is punishable by a mandatory fine of $250. The current law still makes it illegal to text or email while driving at any time statewide, with the same exceptions. (SB 1768)


2.) Legal Age for Tobacco Use

The minimum age required to purchase tobacco products in Virginia is now 21 (the bill provides an exception for active duty military personnel).  Penalties will apply to those under 21 who attempt to purchase tobacco, nicotine vapor or alternative nicotine products, and to individuals who sell or distribute to, purchase for, or knowingly permit the purchase of, such products by anyone under 21. (HB 2748/SB 1727)


3.) Repeal of Driver’s License Suspension for Unpaid Court Fines

Driver’s licenses will no longer be suspended for nonpayment of court fines. This change also reinstates licenses for more than 627,000 residents who lost their license because of nonpayment. (Budget Amendment)


4.) Rear-Facing Car Seats Until Age 2

Children are now required to be in rear-facing car seats until they are 2 years old or reach an appropriate weight to face forward. The bill – which was passed in 2018 but didn’t go in effect until this year – expands the reasons that a physician may adjust the use of a child restraint system to include the child’s height. (HB 708)


5.) Start of School Year Rules

This change allows schools to set their first day as early as 14 days before Labor Day (unless waived by the Board of Education). The bill does state that schools that open earlier should still close on Labor Day, in observance of the national holiday. (HB 1652/SB 1005).


6.) Car Inspection Cost

The price of getting a car’s yearly safety inspection goes from $16 to $20.


7.) Special Permits for Restricted Turns While Driving

To reach a middle ground that allows jurisdictions to control cut-through traffic in neighborhoods without making it difficult for residents in those areas to get around, this new law lets the county create a program providing stickers or other appropriate vehicle designations that allow residents to make turns into or out of a designated area during the times of day when those turns would be otherwise restricted. (HB 2033)


8.) Driving Near Stationary Vehicles Displaying Warning Lights

Drivers can now be fined for failing to move into a nonadjacent lane on a highway when approaching a stationary vehicle displaying flashing, blinking or alternating lights. If changing lanes would be unreasonable or unsafe, the driver is expected to proceed with due caution and maintain a safe speed. Under current law, a first offense is punishable by a fine of not more than $250 and a second such offense is punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor. (HB 1911)


9.) Tobacco and Vape Use on School Property

School boards are now required to develop and implement policies prohibiting the use and distribution of tobacco and/or nicotine vapor products on any school property, on school buses or at on-site or off-site school sponsored activities. These policies must also prohibit possession of such products at the same school locations and functions. The bill requires policies to include information and resources to help staff and students overcome tobacco addiction. (HB 2384/SB 1295)


10.) Regulation of Motorized Skateboards or Scooters

New rules for use of motorized skateboards and scooters include a maximum speed limit of 20 mph and requires localities to keep consistent regulations for all similar devices including motorized skateboards, scooters and bicycles. Localities will have until Jan. 1, 2020, to regulate the operation of companies providing motorized skateboards or scooters for hire. (HB 2752)


11.) No-Excuse In-Person Absentee Voting in 2020

A new bill affecting the 2020 elections allows any registered voter to vote by absentee ballot in person beginning on the second Saturday immediately preceding any election in which they are qualified to vote, without providing a reason or making prior application for an absentee ballot. This begins with the 2020 election on Nov. 3. Current provisions for voting with an absentee ballot by mail or in person prior to the second Saturday immediately preceding the election remain the same, including the application requirement. (HB 2790/SB 1026)


Overview of All State Laws

Get an overview of all new state laws:

Read 2019 Changes to Virginia’s Laws


We Have New Budgets, Too

In addition to new state laws, the county and Fairfax County Public Schools also begin new budget years. Fiscal year 2020 runs through June 30, 2020. Here is more information:

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