Governor Ralph Northam today announced he has signed 49 new pieces of legislation into law, including measures to expand the definition of “hate crime” and increase protections for transgender students in public schools.
Additionally, Governor Northam signed legislation that gives localities more authority over their communities, including House Bill 1101, enabling them to adopt affordable housing dwelling ordinances and House Bill 696, enabling localities to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Governor also signed Senate Bill 50, sponsored by Senator Lionell Spruill, Sr., to ban discrimination on the basis of hair. This bill is identical to House Bill 1514, which was previously signed by Governor Northam.
School Policies for Transgender Students
Governor Northam signed House Bill 145, sponsored by Delegate Marcus Simon and Senate Bill 161, sponsored by Senator Jennifer Boysko, which will require the Department of Education to develop model policies for elementary and secondary schools on how to address common issues involving transgender students, using evidence-based information and best practices. These model policies will address how schools can ensure they treat transgender students fairly and respectfully. School boards must adopt such policies for the 2021-2022 school year.
“In Virginia, we fully expect our schools to treat all students with the dignity and respect they deserve,” said Governor Northam. “This bill represents an important step towards making Virginia more welcoming and inclusive. I’m grateful to Senator Boysko and Delegate Simon for carrying this legislation, and I’m pleased to sign it.”
“All Virginia students deserve to learn in a safe, healthy, and welcoming environment,” said Senator Boysko. “I was proud to carry this incredibly important bill, and I’m thrilled to see it signed into law.”
“It is past time we put in place comprehensive policies to protect Virginia’s transgender students,” said Delegate Simon. “This bill will ensure the safety and dignity of all students in Virginia, regardless of how they identify or where they live.”
Policies for Police Body Cameras
Governor Northam signed House Bill 246, sponsored by Delegate Mark Levine that will establish transparent policies for how police departments should use body-worn cameras and maintain and store records from those cameras.
“Body-worn cameras provide important evidence and context, especially when the facts of an interaction between an officer and a member of the public are in dispute,” said Governor Northam. “Model policies will help ensure public input across the Commonwealth and will increase needed transparency in our criminal justice process.”
“Police-worn body cameras protect both law enforcement and the citizens they interact with,” said Delegate Levine. “With transparent policies for the use of body cameras, we will help increase accountability and build stronger relationships between law enforcement and the citizens they serve in communities across Virginia.”
Reporting Hate Crimes
Governor Northam signed House Bill 276, sponsored by Delegate Rip Sullivan. Current law requires the reporting of hate crimes to the State Police and this bill expands the definition of a hate crime to include criminal acts based on ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identification, and disability. This bill incorporates House Bill 1058.
“Attacking someone because of who they are, who they love, or where they’re from is wrong,” said Governor Northam. “Those actions are intended to send a chilling message that a person is not welcome, and that is exactly the opposite of what we stand for in Virginia. Hate has no place here. I am proud to sign this bill.”
“Over the last few years, we have watched as the number of hate crimes here and across the country continues to increase,” said Delegate Sullivan. “We can—and will—rise above this hatred by enacting legislation that reflects who we are as a Commonwealth.”
Banning Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity
Governor Northam signed House Bill 696, sponsored by Delegate Danica Roem, allowing localities to ban discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations, credit, or education based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
“I want Virginia to be a diverse and inclusive state, where everyone feels welcome,” said Governor Northam. “No one should fear being fired, evicted, or otherwise singled out because of who they are. This bill will help ensure all Virginians are treated fairly and equitably, and I am happy to sign it.”
“No matter where in the Commonwealth you live, you should be free from discrimination,” said Delegate Roem. “Allowing localities to include sexual orientation and gender identity in their nondiscrimination policies means they can make a statement of affirmation about their values at the local level while we continue to make Virginia a more inclusive Commonwealth statewide. I’m proud both localities I represent have leaders who are eager to take action based on this legislation and thank the Governor for signing this bill into law.”
Repealing Virginia’s Habitual Drunkard Law
Governor Northam signed House Bill 923, sponsored by Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy, which repeals a state law that allowed police to arrest and jail an individual declared a “habitual drunkard” by a court if that person possesses alcohol or is publicly intoxicated. The law was declared unconstitutional last year in a federal appeals court ruling.
“This archaic law criminalizes people for being homeless or suffering from addiction,” said Governor Northam. “It punished people without helping them. There are far better ways to address addiction in our Commonwealth, and I’m happy to sign this bill.”
“After years of fighting for reform and fairness in our criminal justice system, I’m excited to see this important bill become law,” said Delegate Carroll Foy. “Repealing Virginia’s draconian and unconstitutional interdiction laws will help to end the arbitrary practice of imprisoning Virginians simply because they are poor, homeless, or suffering from addiction.”
Governor Northam also signed 41 additional bills:
- Senate Bill 264: Certified registered nurse anesthetists; prescriptive authority. This bill is identical to House Bill 1059.
- Senate Bill 341: Construction management contracts; use by local public bodies. This bill is identical to House Bill 890.
- Senate Bill 782: Undergrounding electric transmission lines; pilot program. This bill is identical to House Bill 576.
- Senate Bill 897: Public institutions of higher education; governing boards; educational programs.
- House Bill 60: Substitute judges; powers and duties; entry of a final order.
- House Bill 100: Voir dire examination of persons called as jurors; criminal case.
- House Bill 168: Town of Brodnax; amending charter, reduces number of town councilmen.
- House Bill 171: Town of Bluefield; amending charter, relating to town council, mayor, and town powers.
- House Bill 176: Property Owners’ Association Act and Virginia Condominium Act; contract disclosure statement; extension of right of cancellation. This bill is identical to Senate Bill 672.
- House Bill 245: Fornication; repeal.
- House Bill 345: Town of Scottsville; amending charter, staggered elections for town council and other officers.
- House Bill 441: Town of Middleburg; amending charter, clarification of powers and duties of mayor, council, etc.
- House Bill 464: City of Virginia Beach; amending charter, council members.
- House Bill 576: Undergrounding electric transmission lines; pilot program. This bill is identical to Senate Bill 782.
- House Bill 611: Public institutions of higher education; governing boards; educational programs.
- House Bill 629: Town of Blacksburg; amending charter, public hearings.
- House Bill 663: Circumvention of ignition interlock systems; venue.
- House Bill 670: Uniform Statewide Building Code and Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention Code; proposal for changes to the Codes to address active shooters or hostile threats. This bill is identical to Senate Bill 333.
- House Bill 726: Comprehensive plan; adoption or disapproval by governing body.
- House Bill 738: Presiding officer of county board of supervisors; terminology.
- House Bill 749: City of Norfolk; amending charter, employees of officers, vagrants.
- House Bill 780: Returns of service; acceptance of copies of proofs of service.
- House Bill 834: Order of publication; electronic notice.
- House Bill 846: Town of Elkton; amending charter, town boundaries, council meetings.
- House Bill 875: Local ordinance on grass cutting.
- House Bill 880: Protective orders; motions to dissolve filed by petitioner; ex parte hearing and issuance of order.
- House Bill 890: Construction management or design-build contracts; use by local public bodies. This bill is identical to Senate Bill 341.
- House Bill 929: Subdivision plats; certain approved final plats shall remain valid indefinitely, etc.
- House Bill 938: Relocation or expansion of courthouse.
- House Bill 998: Adoption of flood plain ordinances.
- House Bill 1044: Unauthorized use of electronic tracking device; increases penalty.
- House Bill 1064: City of Richmond; amending charter, residency of council members.
- House Bill 1071: Profane swearing in public; removes the crime from Code. This bill incorporates House Bill 132.
- House Bill 1076: Carrying concealed weapons; sling bow.
- House Bill 1213: Authority of local government employees to issue summonses for misdemeanor violations of local ordinances.
- House Bill 1232: Vacant building registration; Town of Timberville.
- House Bill 1233: Town of Dayton; amending charter, organizational and technical changes.
- House Bill 1267: Land bank entities; planning district commissions.
- House Bill 1369: Land bank entities; conflict of interests.
- House Bill 1565: Town of Blackstone; amending charter, advisory referendums.
- House Bill 1585: Discounted water and sewer fees; Town of Altavista.
Until the session’s final week, the Constitution of Virginia requires the Governor to act on legislation within seven days.
The General Assembly session is scheduled to adjourn on March 7, 2020.