New Virginia Laws Take Effect Today — July 1, 2021

Historic measures include marijuana legalization, tuition-free community college, increased access to voting, and expansion of passenger rail

Criminal justice reforms that legalize the simple possession of marijuana and create the Cannabis Control Authority to establish an equitable cannabis marketplace, seal certain crimes from an individual’s record automatically, abolish the death penalty, limit the amount of active incarceration for technical violations of probation, and allow sentencing by a judge rather than a jury in certain criminal cases.

Increasing access to the ballot box with the Voting Rights Act of Virginia and measures that reduce barriers to absentee voting and allow localities to provide access to early voting on Sundays.

Prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion at state agencies, within emergency management and disaster response efforts, and by modernizing the funding mechanism for local health departments. A new law also prohibits discrimination in public accommodations, employment, and housing on the basis of a person’s military status.

Supporting teachers and students by giving educators a five percent pay raise, increasing the number of school counselors, providing cultural competency training for teachers, giving middle and high school students one day of absence per school year to participate in civic or political engagement activities, and prohibiting schools from filing a lawsuit against students or their families because the student cannot pay for a school meal or owes a school meal debt.

Strengthening worker protections including the Virginia Overtime Wage Act, paid sick leave for home health workers, and prohibiting employers from taking retaliatory actions against employees who utilize leave. New measures also ensure that domestic workers are covered by employee protections, fair pay laws, and the Virginia Human Rights Act. Virginia is also expanding eligibility for workers’ compensation to first responders who contracted COVID-19 on the job.

Accelerating Virginia’s renewable energy transition by establishing the Commonwealth Clean Energy Policy and requiring car manufacturers to sell a certain percentage of electric or hybrid electric passenger cars.

Transforming passenger rail by creating the New River Valley Passenger Rail Station Authority to support the expansion of passenger rail west of Roanoke.

Advancing the rights and representation of LGBTQ+ Virginians by creating the Virginia LGBTQ+ Advisory Board, striking the discriminatory LGBTQ+ “panic defense,” ensuring equal access to aging services for LGBTQ+ older adults, making adoption easier for unmarried LGBTQ+ couples, and modernizing outdated criminal laws related to people living with HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

Making higher education accessible to all Virginians with the G3 program, which provides tuition-free community college to low- and middle-income students who pursue degrees in high-demand fields. Other measures ban public institutions of higher education from asking about an individuals’ criminal record during the application process, prohibit colleges and universities from denying admission based on criminal history, and establish a program to provide scholarships to families of enslaved individuals who labored at Virginia colleges.

Commonsense gun violence prevention measures that prohibit individuals convicted of domestic assault from owning, purchasing, or carrying firearms for a three-year period and ban guns and explosive materials from Capitol Square and state government buildings.

Protecting women’s health by increasing access to contraception for Medicaid members and removing the prohibition on abortion coverage within the state health insurance exchange.


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