Key legislation passed during Virginia’s General Assembly session

Education

Both chambers agreed to cut down on the number of standardized tests that students take between kindergarten and eighth grade, from 22 to 17. They also plan to delay two signature reforms made by former governor Robert F. McDonnell (R). A-F grading for schools is pushed back two years and adjusted to account for factors outside test scores. State takeover of failing schools will also be delayed, but the details will be worked out in the budget.

Ethics

The legislature voted to cap “tangible” gifts to officials from any one entity at $250 a year, required disclosure of gifts to immediate family members, made disclosures more frequent and established an ethics council. But the deal excludes “intangible” gifts such as travel, sports tickets and meals, as well as loans to companies owned by lawmakers. And it does not require disclosure of stocks that have been sold or transferred between disclosure deadlines.

Mental health

Reforms have focused on the point when a dangerously unstable person is taken into custody and psychiatric care. Emergency custody orders in such cases would be extended from six to 12 hours, leaving more time to find a bed in a psychiatric facility. After eight hours, a state facility will take the patient and spend the next four hours looking for a private bed. Once a bed is found, the temporary detention order granted is extended from 48 to 72 hours. Both chambers passed legislation compelling the state to maintain a “real-time” online registry of available beds; that registry went live this week. They also mandated better oversight of court-ordered outpatient treatment. A four-year study of mental health services in the state was launched with the goal of making recommendations for further reforms.

Hybrid car tax

An annual $64 tax on hybrid cars was repealed, and anyone who paid the tax in advance for future years will get a refund.

Sunday hunting

Hunting on Sundays will be legal in Virginia on private land, as long as it does not take place within 200 yards of a house of worship. Hunting of deer or bears with dogs is not included.

Fox penning

Construction of pens in which dogs hunt coyotes or foxes is banned. Existing fox pens will be allowed to remain in operation until 2054, but the number of foxes will be regulated.

Revenge porn

Malicious dissemination of explicit photographs of another person with “the intent to coerce, harass, or intimidate” that person and without authorization is now a Class 1 misdemeanor.

East Sea

Textbooks in Virginia will now label the body of water between Japan and the Korean peninsula as both the “Sea of Japan” and the “East Sea.” The latter is preferred by Koreans.

Sodomy

The state has undone its long-standing ban on sodomy, which was invalidated by a 2003 Supreme Court decision. The new law leaves bestiality and incest as “crimes against nature.”

Celebratory gunfire

Shooting a gun recklessly and causing significant, permanent physical impairment to another person is now a Class 6 felony. The new law is in response to the death of a 7-year-old boy during a Fourth of July celebration in Chesterfield last year.

Puppy mills

A new law requires pet shops and dealers to identify the breeders of animals for sale and reimburse customers for veterinary fees when a dog or cat has been deemed unfit for purchase. State law already has limits to crack down on puppy mills; this law is aimed at preventing such dogs from being brought in from other states.

Bike safety

The state is increasing the distance cars must leave to pass bicycles from two feet to three feet. But legislation making it illegal to tailgate bikes failed.

Pet burial

Pets and their owners can now be buried together in human cemeteries, as long as they are in a section separate from other burial plots.

Rachel Weiner covers cops and courts in Arlington and Alexandria.
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