RICHMOND — Some of the biggest legislative accomplishments of the year in Virginia will go into effect Wednesday, including laws intended to protect the victims and prosecute the perpetrators of campus sexual assault, regulate Uber and limit the use of drones.
Maryland will see the institution of similar laws as well as one requiring police to inform the governor’s office and lawmakers when a law enforcement officer kills someone and when an officer is killed in the line of duty.
Also Wednesday, the District’s minimum-wage workers will get a city-mandated increase, with hourly pay moving from $9.50 to $10.50.
The increase is part of legislation signed into law in January 2014 that will eventually raise the District’s minimum wage to $11.50. The change could affect as many as 64,000 workers; it will put the rate among the highest in the country.
Wednesday is the start date for a number of laws in both states and the District.
In Virginia, federal investigations into rape on college campuses and a scandal at the University of Virginia featured in a now-discredited Rolling Stone magazine article dominated debate during this year’s General Assembly session in Richmond.
Measures passed by lawmakers and signed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) require colleges to report acts of sexual violence, notify the commonwealth’s attorney when any such investigation begins and make a note on the transcripts of students suspended for sexual violence.
If an employee of a public or private nonprofit institution of higher education learns of a sexual assault, it must be reported to the entity’s Title IX coordinator, who must report the information to a review committee. The committee must meet within three days and decide whether to notify police.
In other developments, hemp advocates applauded a new Virginia law that allows the cultivation of industrial hemp by licensed growers as part of a university-managed research program.
In the age of Facebook and Twitter, another new Virginia law prohibits employers from forcing employees or job applicants to disclose user names and passwords for social media accounts. Starting Wednesday, employers also will be prohibited from compelling workers to “friend” or add them to their accounts.
And a new Virginia measure gives mothers the right to breast-feed in public places, expanding current law that allows breast-feeding on state property.
Virginia has also established a process for licensing phone-based car services such as Uber and Lyft, including a $100,000 initial fee and $60,000 renewal costs.
Drivers must be at least 21 years old, licensed to drive, and pass criminal and sex offender background checks, and the vehicles must have a certain level of insurance.
Maryland instituted similar rules. Uber and Lyft will be allowed to operate in the state, with new regulations that authorize the services but require the companies to perform criminal background checks on their drivers and purchase a minimum level of insurance coverage.
Under a Virginia law that replaces a guideline set to expire Wednesday, police must seek a warrant before using a drone aircraft in an investigation, adding Virginia to the list of 11 states with such a requirement, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia. The law does not apply to the use of unmanned aircraft systems by private businesses.
In Maryland, a new policy will prohibit counties and municipalities from enacting their own laws on the use of drones, giving the state and federal government exclusive jurisdiction to regulate the devices. The law also requires the state to study the benefits and concerns related to drone use and propose rules by the end of 2018 for how they can be used safely.
Additional Maryland laws set to take effect Wednesday include measures that affect storm-water fees, police accountability and taxes on military pensions.
The police-accountability measure will require local law enforcement agencies to provide the governor’s office and legislature with information about officer-involved deaths and the deaths of police officers in the line of duty.
Another Maryland law will repeal the “rain tax,” which had required the state’s 10 largest local jurisdictions to charge storm-water-remediation fees to combat pollution of the Chesapeake Bay. Under the policy, jurisdictions can decide for themselves how to pay for federally mandated environmental protection efforts.
While he was a candidate campaigning for office, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) had pledged to eliminate the state-mandated fees as part of his larger tax-relief platform and both chambers of the legislature approved the repeal by wide margins this year.
The victory was one of only two for the governor this year on tax relief.
Another law taking effect Wednesday will double the state’s maximum tax exemption for the military pensions of people older than 65, raising the amount from $5,000 to $10,000 for each tax cycle. Hogan initially called for a full repeal of income taxes on military-retirement income, but the legislature scaled back the proposal.
Aside from its new laws, Maryland also will implement lower toll rates, which Hogan ordered this year for many of the state’s roads and bridges.
The changes include a 54 percent reduction for E-ZPass users on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and a 33 percent drop for other drivers.
The price for using the Intercounty Connector, which stretches from Interstate 270 in Montgomery County to U.S. Route 1 in Prince George’s County, will fall by about 12 percent.
The Hogan administration has estimated that the overall rate reductions will save Maryland drivers $270 million over the next five years.
Perry Stein contributed to this report.