Governor signs remaining bills from 2021 Special Session

Published: Mar. 31, 2021 at 7:35 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ/Governor’s Office Release) - Governor Ralph Northam took action Wednesday on several pieces of legislation, concluding his review of bills passed by the General Assembly during the 2021 special session.

In all, Governor Northam took action on 552 bills and did not veto any legislation from the 2021 special session.

“Throughout this session, we have focused on responding to the ongoing public health and economic impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic and moving our Commonwealth forward,” said Governor Northam. “These new laws will increase support for Virginia families and businesses, ensure our children and teachers can safely return to classrooms, advance equity, and tackle systemic racism. I am extremely proud of the meaningful progress we have made to enact legislation as unprecedented as the challenges we are facing.”

Governor Northam signed the following bills into law:

· House Bill 1889 extends eviction protections for renters experiencing financial hardship due to the pandemic through July 1, 2022.

· House Bill 1930 prohibits public institutions of higher education from asking about an individual’s criminal record during the application process. The new law also prohibits colleges and universities from denying admission based on criminal history.

· House Bill 1980 establishes the “Enslaved Ancestors College Access Scholarship and Memorial Program” to support the families of enslaved individuals who labored at Virginia colleges.

· House Bill 2081 prohibits the possession of firearms within 40 feet of a polling place or electoral board meeting to certify the results of an election.

· House Bill 2075 designates U.S. Route 1 as “Emancipation Highway.” Route 1 is currently named “Jefferson Davis Highway” in several parts of Virginia.

· House Bill 2132 eliminates the “gay panic” defense.

· House Bill 2137 requires employers to provide paid sick leave to home health workers. This new law also prohibits employers from taking certain retaliatory actions against employees who use leave.

· House Bill 2161 and Senate Bill 1410 prohibits discrimination in public accommodations, employment, and housing on the basis of a person’s military status.

· House Bill 2332 establishes the Commonwealth Health Reinsurance Program to expand access to health care and lower insurance premiums.

· Senate Bill 1122 repeals the remaining provisions of the Habitual Offender Act, with the goal of allowing more than 13,000 people to obtain driver’s licenses.

· Senate Bill 1138 updates several criminal laws related to people living with HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. The reforms reflect “contemporary public health knowledge and help to de-stigmatize these diseases.”

· Senate Bill 1261 provides for an appeal of right in every civil case and expands the Virginia Court of Appeals from 11 to 17 judges.

· Senate Bill 1303 requires school divisions to offer “in-person learning consistent with public health guidelines, in accordance with the constitutional authority of school divisions, and while prioritizing the safety of students, teachers, and staff.” All of Virginia’s 132 school divisions are currently offering in-person learning options or have approved plans to do so.

· Senate Bill 1310, House Bill 2032 and House Bill 1864 ensure domestic workers are covered by employee protections, fair pay laws and the Virginia Human Rights Act.

Governor Northam proposed changes to the following bills:

· House Bill 1899 and Senate Bill 1252 end the Coal Employment and Production Incentive Tax Credit and Coalfield Employment Enhancement Tax Credit after tax year 2021. The Governor’s amendments set the goal of dedicating the anticipated savings to the University of Virginia’s College at Wise in Southwest Virginia, for the expansion of course offerings in data science, computer science, and renewable energy.

· House Bill 1992 aligns Virginia to federal law by prohibiting individuals who have been convicted of assaulting a family member from possessing or purchasing a firearm. The Governor’s amendments clarify this prohibition applies to individuals in a domestic partnership and extends the period of prohibition from three years to five years.

· House Bill 2031 prohibits local law enforcement agencies and campus police departments from purchasing or using facial recognition technology unless expressly permitted by the General Assembly. The Governor’s amendment corrects a technical error and ensures airports are exempt from these provisions, as intended.

· House Bill 2038 limits when a court may impose incarceration for a probation or suspended sentence violation. Governor Northam amended the bill to ensure a defendant who absconds or has outstanding restitution obligations remains on probation.

· House Bill 2113 and Senate Bill 1339 create a process for the automatic sealing of criminal records and for petition-based sealing. The Governor’s amendment empowers state agencies to begin this process prior to 2025, as infrastructure allows.

· House Bill 2138 allows undocumented Virginians to receive identification cards. The Governor’s amendment is technical.

· House Bill 2295 and Senate Bill 1381 prohibit firearms in Capitol Square, Virginia State Capitol, and state-owned buildings. The Governor’s proposed amendment would provide an exemption for magistrates.

Governor Northam proposed 18 amendments to House Bill 1800, the Commonwealth’s budget. The majority of the Governor’s budget amendments are language only, according to the governor’s office, and include measures to ensure flexibility in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, protect federal stimulus checks from debt collectors, and move the corporate income tax reporting date from June 1, 2021 to July 1, 2021. The Governor is also proposing $250,000 for an independent review of the Office of the State Inspector General’s investigation of the Virginia Parole Board’s release of Vincent Martin.

Governor Northam’s letter to the General Assembly detailing his amendments to the revised state budget is available here. A full list of legislation signed by the Governor from the 2021 special session can be found here.

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