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A long list of laws passed by the Virginia General Assembly and signed by Gov. Ralph Northam will take effect July 1. They cover a range of topics from raising the age to purchase cigarettes and vaping products to child safety seats and using a cellphone while driving in a work zone. 

One new law regarding rear-facing child restraint devices, House Bill 708, was signed by Northam (D) in 2018 and goes into effect July 1. According to the new law, children should ride in cars in rear-facing safety seats until age 2 or until they reach the minimum weight for a forward-facing safety seat, according to the manufacturer. The current law allows children who are 1 year old, or who meet the weight limit, to ride forward-facing. 

Other laws going into effect on July 1 were passed by the General Assembly and signed by the governor this year. 

Senate Bill 1708 prohibits the use of cellphones in highway work zones. Specifically, the law prohibits a driver holding “a handheld personal communication device in his hand while driving a motor vehicle in a highway work zone.” Violations are punishable by a mandatory fine of $250.  

Another new traffic law, HB 2805, prohibits parking any vehicle in the striped area adjacent to a parking space reserved for people with disabilities.  

A new Alcoholic Beverage Control-related law, HB 2073/SB 1726,allows restaurants to advertise their happy hour specials. The law allows restaurants to advertise the prices of their drink specials, something that was previously illegal.  

SB 1727 raises the minimum age for purchasing tobacco, nicotine vapor and other nicotine products from 18 to 21. Active-duty military members will still be able to purchase tobacco products at age 18 if they show a military I.D. 

Another new law, HB2170, is an attempt to crack down on phone calls that display a false phone number on your caller ID. The new law makes it a Class 3 misdemeanor to call a number and display false caller identification information with the intent to “defraud, intimidate or harass” the recipient of the phone call. 

Another new criminal law, HB 2678/SB 1736, aims to crack down on revenge porn. The new law prohibits the unlawful dissemination or sale of certain images of another person, including those that were realistically fabricated.  

SB 1395, another new criminal law, makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor to threaten to kill or injure any health care provider “who is engaged in the performance of his duties.”  

A new education-related law, HB 1652/SB 1005, allows school districts to start school no earlier than 14 days before Labor Day, unless the state Board of Education grants a waiver. The current law requires school districts to start school after Labor Day, unless the Board of Education grants a waiver. The new law also requires that if school starts before Labor Day, school should be closed the Friday before Labor Day as well as on Labor Day Monday. 

Another new law grants a little more privacy to lottery winners. HB 1650/SB 1060 prohibits the Virginia Lottery from disclosing information about lottery winners whose prize is more than $10 million, unless the winner consents to the disclosure. The current law requires the lottery to disclose winners’ names, hometowns and the amounts won. 

More information about these laws and more legislation passed by the 2019 session of the General Assembly can be found at http://dls.virginia.gov/pubs/idc/idc19.pdf. 

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