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Focus on Fairfax
July 12, 2015

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

 

This past July 1st, most of the bills passed during the 2015 legislative session went into effect across Virginia.  During this session the General Assembly tackled conflict of interest laws for elected officials, campus sexual assault policies, continued reform of our Standards of Learning, and increased oversight of transportation funding decisions - just to name a few.  In all, over 770 new laws were enacted.

 

Below is a summary of just a few of the new laws that went into effect on July 1st.  In addition, the Division of Legislative Services publishes In Due Course, which is a more comprehensive overview of new laws that are likely to affect the daily lives of Virginians.  Finally, you can download the 2015 Session Summary for a summary of all bills considered during the session sorted by subject area.

 

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or if you have an idea for next year's legislative session.

 

2015 Legislative Highlights

 

Credit for Military Training (HB2354). Sets up a system to award academic credit to community college students who successfully completed certain military training applicable to the degree requirements.

 

Electronic Communications After Death (SB1450). Provides a framework for when a family member or fiduciary may access electronic communications after the account holder has died or become incapacitated.

 

Disclosure of Social Media Accounts (HB2081). Prohibits a current or prospective employer from requiring the disclosure of the user name and password of private social media accounts.

 

E-Cigarette Packaging (HB2036). Requires all liquid nicotine to be sold in child resistant packaging.

 

Medical Marijuana for Epilepsy (HB1445). Allows for the possession of cannabidiol oil to treat intractable epilepsy pursuant to a written certification issued by a medical practitioner. The oil is derived from marijuana but does not produce a high.

 

DNA Analysis Upon Conviction (HB1928). Adds several new violations to the offenses where an adult must submit to having their DNA stored in the Virginia DNA database. These include violation of a protective order, stalking, infected sexual battery, indecent exposure, and several other misdemeanors.

 

Seclusion in School (HB1443). Requires the Board of Education to adopt uniform regulations on the use of seclusion and restraint in public schools.

 

Intercollegiate Athletic Programs (HB1897). Establishes a formula to cap the amount of mandatory student fees that can be used to support intercollegiate athletic programs.

 

Breastfeeding in Public (HB1499). Provides that a mother may breastfeed in any public place.

 

Mandated Coverage for Autism (HB1940). Increases the age that health insurers must cover the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorder from six to 10. The measure has specific exceptions.

 

Standards of Learning Tests (HB1490). Expands the number of situations where students may take an expedited retake of an SOL test.

 

Tax Refund Payments (HB1286). Requires that an individual can elect to have income tax refunds paid by check. Previous legislation limited options to electronic payment or debit card.

 

Family Home Daycare Centers (HB1570). Establishes new standards for daycare centers, including fingerprint-based national criminal history record checks for employees and volunteers. The bill also lowers from five to four the maximum number of children that can be provided care without a state license.

 

Following Too Closely (HB1342). Adds non-motor vehicles (bicycles, mopeds, etc.) to vehicles where the driver of another vehicle shall not follow more closely than is reasonable.

 

Crowdfunding for Small Businesses (HB1360). Gives small businesses and entrepreneurs the ability to raise money through the use of crowdfunding. It also makes it easier for Virginians to invest in promising newstart-ups.

 

Safe Reporting of Overdoses (HB1500). Establishes an affirmative defense from prosecution for possession of certain controlled substances if such individual sought emergency medical attention for himself or another person in a drug or alcohol-related overdose.

 

Human Trafficking (HB1964). Creates new felonies for trafficking of persons for commercial sex activities.

 

Voter Identification (HB1653). Adds to the list of accepted identification for voting a valid student ID issued by a private school in Virginia.

 

Transportation Network Companies (HB1662). Establishes the rules under which transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft must operate.

 

HOA Bill of Rights (SB1008). Provides that each member of an HOA in good standing has certain rights, including access to books and records, notice of meetings of the board of directors, notice of proceedings to discuss enforcement actions against a unit owner and to be represented by counsel, and to serve on the board of directors if duly elected.

 

Spotlight on College Safety

 

In response to several high profile incidents across the nation, the General Assembly created a new reporting process at colleges and universities for allegations of sexual assault. This is an extremely complex issue. First, federal laws like the Clery Act and Title IX of the Higher Education Amendments of 1972 trump state law in many cases. More importantly, however, is the delicate balance between respecting a victim's right to privacy and the need to protect the community at large from potential predators. Under federal law, each campus has a Title IX coordinator who is empowered with making decisions about whether an incident should be reported to the police even against the wishes of the victim.

 

The new law requires designated college and university employees who obtain information about an act of sexual violence on campus to report it to the Title IX coordinator as soon as possible. The Title IX coordinator must then report the information to a review committee that is required to meet within 72 hours. If the committee determines that disclosure of the information is necessary to protect the health and safety of the victim or other individuals, it must be reported to a law-enforcement agency. The law also requires the governing board of each college or university to establish a written memorandum of understanding with a local sexual assault crisis center or other victim support service.

 

Spotlight on Transportation

 

In 2013, the General Assembly passed a bi-partisan transportation package that will invest billions in local and regional priorities, including I-66, Route 28, and other bottlenecks. Since that time, we have been working to bring more accountability and transparency to the project selection process. Last year the Governor signed HB2, which establishes a data-driven process to prioritize funding needs. Information about the process is found at www.virginiahb2.org.

 

This year, the General Assembly built on this progress with two more important pieces of legislation. The first bill, HB1886, reforms the Public-Private Transportation Act by requiring more rigorous analysis and oversight of proposed projects. This will make sure that decisions reflect the best long-term investment of our tax dollars. The second bill, HB1887, reforms how transportation funding is divided among regions. The new formula will result in more money being sent locally and increase investment in multi-modal solutions such as transit. This benefits Fairfax and our region. The bill also reduces the political nature of the decision-making process by strengthening the independence of the Commonwealth Transportation Board.

 

Sincerely,

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David Bulova
Delegate, 37th Virginia House District

PS -- On Thursday, July 23rd from 7-9 p.m. I will be holding my annual Summer Serenade fundraiser at Blenheim in the City of Fairfax.  Enjoy an evening of wine, live music, and great company on the grounds of this historic property.  Click here for more information.  
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