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New laws affect region

Hundreds of new laws affecting residents in the Heart of Virginia were enacted Monday, July 1. The laws cover everything from cellphone use while driving, to child seat belts and tobacco purchase. Some of the new laws can be viewed below. To find a full list of the Senate and House bills that were enacted by the Virginia General Assembly, visit lis.virginia.gov.

DISTRACTED DRIVING

Senate Bill (SB) 1768 prohibits motorists from holding a cellphone or any other handheld personal communications device while driving through a highway work zone. Violators are punishable by a mandatory fine of $250. According to the bill, “current law prohibits only the reading of an email or text message on the device and manually entering letters or text in the device as a means of communicating, with the same exceptions.” Another bill, SB 1521, cites that the Department of State Police can operate a handheld photo speed monitoring device to track vehicles that may exceed 12 miles over the posted speed limit at a work zone. The operator of the vehicle could receive a fine of up to $125 if it’s found to exceed the speed limit.

CHANGING LANES

The slogan “Move Over” has been commonly used by state and area agencies to encourage motorists to move to another lane if they see stationary vehicles on the roadway. It’s now law. House Bill (HB) 1911 states that it’s now a Class 1 Misdemeanor if a driver does not move into a nonadjacent lane with at least four lanes after “approaching a stationary vehicle displaying flashing, blinking or alternating blue, red or amber lights.”

If changing lanes would be unsafe, motorists can proceed with caution and maintain a safe speed.

Under current law, according to the bill, the first offense would have been considered a traffic infraction punishable by a fine of up to $250, and a second offense would be a Class 1 misdemeanor.

DRIVER’S LICENSE

SUSPENSION

Several bills that include SB 1013, SB 1310 and SB 1612 now repeal the suspension of driver’s licenses if someone does not pay fines or other costs.

“The bill also removes a provision allowing the court to require a defendant to present a summary prepared by the Department of Motor Vehicles of the other courts in which the defendant also owes fines and costs,” text from the bill cited.

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles is responsible for returning or reinstating the driver’s licenses that were suspended solely for nonpayment of fines and costs prior to July 1, provided that that the person has paid the reinstatement fee. “The provisions of the bill are contingent upon funding in a general appropriation act,” text from the bill cites.

NEW TOBACCO LAWS

The minimum age to purchase tobacco products has been moved up to 21 years old, rather than 18.

According to HB 2748 and SB 1727, these products include nicotine vapor products and alternative nicotine products.

An exception to this bill is for those in active duty military personnel.

Tobacco products, nicotine vapor products and alternative nicotine products can be sold from a vending machine, according to the bill, as long as there is posted notice of the minimum age requirements and the machine is located in a place that is not open to the general public and not accessible to people under 21.

Crossroads Community Services Board officials cited in a notice that if young adults need help with a tobacco or nicotine addiction, they can be directed to free services by calling (800) 7848-669 (QUIT-NOW) or visiting https://www. quitnow.net/Virginia.

CHILD SEATS

Changes to rear-facing child car seats have also taken place. According to HB 708, child seats cannot be forward-facing until the child reaches 2 years old, or “until the child reaches the minimum weight limit for a forward-facing child restraint device as prescribed by the manufacturer of the device.” While the bill was approved in 2018, it was not enacted until Monday.

According to the bill, it “expands the reasons that a physician may determine that it is impractical for a child to use a child restraint system to include the child’s height.”

PROTECTING ANIMALS

The bills HB 1874 and SB 1604 were known colloquially as “Tommie’s Law,” named after the dog that was set on fire and later died from his injuries in February.

According to the bill, it’s now a Class 6 felony for anyone who “tortures, willfully inflicts inhumane injury or pain not connected with bona fide scientific or medical experimentation, or cruelly and unnecessarily beats, maims, or mutilates any dog or cat that is a companion animal whether belonging to him or another.”

TRIP HUNTING LICENSE

Virginia residents can now purchase a trip hunting license rather than standard local or statewide hunting licenses, thanks to HB 1621. Prior to July 1, only nonresidents were allowed to purchase trip hunting licenses.

ALCOHOL LAWS

Several alcohol distribution-related laws have also come into effect, including HB 2073 and SB 1726, which expands the ways in which retail ABC licensees can advertise their happy hours, granted that the advertisements don’t promote underaged drinking or overconsumption.

There is also HB 1770 and SB 1668, which requires the Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority to pay a distiller who operates a government store on the distiller’s licensed premises a commission of not less than 20 percent of the retail price of any goods sold. The bill also allows certain government stores to be open on Sundays for the sale of alcoholic beverages after 10 a.m. Finally, the bill grants the Board the power to employ or retain in-house legal counsel to advise or represent the Authority in hearings, controversies, or other matters involving the interests of the Authority. The bill provides, however, that upon request by the Board, the Attorney General shall provide legal services for the Authority in accordance with current law.

In addition, HB 1887 requires that human trafficking hotline notices be posted in Virginia ABC locations, except for government stores established on a distiller’s licensed premises, and in employment offices.

The notices, according to the bill, “alert possible witnesses or victims of human trafficking to the availability of a means to report crimes or gain assistance.”