Several laws from the Virginia legislature’s session will take effect Thursday, including one groundbreaking law abolishing the death penalty in the state.
Virginia will be the first southern state to take such a measure.
The bill the end the death penalty was approved by the Democrat-controlled General Assembly in late March.
New voting rights laws will also become effective Thursday, including laws that ban guns within 40 feet of a polling place, require the state to put prepaid postage on return envelopes for absentee ballots, and allow election officials to designate locations for ballot drop-offs.
The new budget, which “includes money for a 5% raise for teachers, state employees, college and university faculty and employees, and state-supported local employees like sheriff’s deputies,” also goes into effect Thursday, according to The Richmond Times-Dispatch. State Troopers are receiving a three percent pay raise too.
Guns will now be banned in the state Capitol and on Capitol grounds, which will take effect along with a new law that bars Virginians convicted of assaulting a family member from purchasing a weapon for three years.
On the privacy front, police will be prohibited from using facial recognition technology in the pursuit of criminal suspects.
Those are the big-ticket items on which the general assembly focused in the spring, but some lower-profile laws will take effect Thursday, too.
It will be a crime in Virginia to release helium balloons, a practice often associated with memorial services. The fine will be $25 per balloon.
Motorists will now be required to give cyclists three feet of space when passing, and will be required to change lanes if three feet of space is unavailable.
Finally, the fine for littering will double from $250 to $500.
Del. James Edmunds II (R-Halifax) pushed for the fine increase.
He spoke with The Virginia Star after that law passed the House of Delegates.
Littering obviously is a bipartisan issue. Nobody likes to see it. I don’t know anyone who supports it, though some may not agree on the best way to address it.
The roads are the worst I’ve ever seen them. The status quo is not doing any good. This bill will hopefully bring attention to a terrible problem.
I have been a participant in the Adopt-a-Highway program that VDOT put together for 25 years. Annually I clean up a section of road. The section I clean up is equally as bad every year. Picking up litter is not the solution. We’ve got to change the mindset.
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Pete D’Abrosca is a contributor at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Follow Pete on Twitter. Email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.