Virginia Girls State, in its 70th year, was held last week at Longwood University in Farmville. This was my 5th year participating in the event. I was joined in the Q & A discussion session with Delegate Chris Collins with about 100 of the participants. This was a great way to interact with our youth and stress to them how important our local government is and what role I play as state delegate. I also was able to sit with the young ladies at lunch and address and answer their questions and comments. There were over 600 young ladies in this year’s event.
In 1937 at the National convention, the American Legion Auxiliary organized Girls State as a national Americanism activity. It is designed to teach young women responsible citizenship and love for God and Country. Since its inception, nearly one million young women, nationwide, have had the opportunity to learn firsthand how their state and local governments work
Hundreds of bills that the General Assembly passed this year and Governor Terry McAuliffe signed into law take effect this Friday, July 1st. New laws soon to be on the books in Virginia affect everything from guns and marriage to school testing, day care facilities and smoking in cars when a young child is present.
There are new ethical guidelines for lawmakers and public officials, procedural requirements for handling reports of campus sexual assault, and regulations for fantasy sports gaming in Virginia. For avid herpetologists and geologists, there are new state designations: The Eastern Garter Snake becomes the official snake of Virginia, and Nelsonite, an igneous rock first discovered in Nelson County, will be the official state rock.
The most broadly applicable legislative action was embedded in the state’s $105 billion, two-year budget that takes effect Friday — proposed pay raises for state workers and state-supported local government employees, school teachers and university faculty. The raises are due to take effect December 1, but would be delayed if revenues fall short by more than 1 percent for the fiscal year that ends Thursday. If that happens, the Governor will have to begin a formal reforecast of revenues for the new two-year budget and adjust spending accordingly.
There are three measures that emerged from his Task Force on Combating Campus Sexual Violence. The measures require high school family life curricula to educate students on dating violence and other forms of sexual assault; train law enforcement on handling investigations involving sexual trauma; and tighten requirements for retaining physical evidence from sexual assault investigations. Physical evidence recovery kits from victims who initially elect not to report a sexual assault now will be stored for two years or longer.
Assisted living facilities, adult day care centers, licensed and registered child welfare agencies, and family day homes may not continue to employ workers who have been convicted of violent felonies. The state also stiffened the penalty for unlicensed child care providers, who can be charged with a Class 4 felony — punishable by two to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000 — for criminal neglect if a child dies or is seriously injured in their care.
Pharmacies that supply Virginia with lethal injection drugs will be exempt from open records laws - legislation that effectively allows Virginia to proceed with executions using lethal injection. The new law was the result of an amendment McAuliffe offered to legislation the General Assembly had passed that would have required prisoners to die in the electric chair if lethal injection drugs were not available.
A package of legislation passed in a compromise deal between Republican lawmakers who back gun rights and the McAuliffe administration, which sought greater restrictions on gun possession. The package expands recognition of out-of-state concealed-carry permits. That reverses Attorney General Mark R. Herring’s decision last year to sever ties with 25 states that have looser permitting rules than Virginia. The state will enter into reciprocal handgun carry permit agreements with other states that issue verifiable permits and recognize Virginia concealed handgun permits.
The Virginia State Police will be available at Virginia gun shows to run voluntary background checks on firearm purchases. Domestic abusers subject to family abuse final protective orders issued by a judge will be required to surrender their firearms to a third party within 24 hours of receiving them or face felony charges.
A new law requires both partners in a marriage to be at least 18 years old or deemed emancipated by a court in order to be married. It removes exceptions in the law that allowed people to marry at 16 with parental or guardian consent, or people younger than 16 to marry in the case of pregnancy and parental or guardian consent.
Lawmakers approved major changes to how local governments extract cash and other concessions from residential developers. The measure will bar localities from denying rezoning requests based on “unreasonable” proffer requests.
Smoking will be prohibited in cars when a child who is 8 or younger is in the vehicle. Violators are subject to a civil penalty of $100.
Lawmakers backed a bill designed to help prepare students for technology jobs. It calls for the Board of Education to incorporate computer science, computational thinking and coding into the Standards of Learning curriculum. Local school boards also are to develop and implement computer science curriculum for students from kindergarten through 12th grade.
This only highlights few of the many bills passed into law this year. For more information, you can also visit https://lis.virginia.gov/ to review any bill that was presented, passed or vetoed in the 2016 General Assembly session.
If you have any concerns, questions, comments or issues that I or my Aide, Jenna, can help you with, please contact us at (434) 821-5929 or email at [email protected]. You can also keep up with me on my facebook page at www.facebook.com/DelegateMattFariss.