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The coronavirus pandemic presented challenges to state legislatures across the country, and Virginia’s was no exception. After adjourning on March 12, lawmakers reconvened in a special session to tackle several measures that were suspended in the wake of COVID-19. Despite these difficulties, several laws were enacted that will remove barriers for Virginians and empower them to build lives marked by opportunity.
Among the positive legislative advances made in Virginia’s 2020 legislative session:
Criminal justice reform: The General Assembly passed a bill ending the suspension of drivers’ licenses as a penalty for unpaid fines and fees. These penalties imposed a financial burden on Virginians hoping to keep working, paying their overdue fines, and generally improve their lives. Another new law significantly improves the practice of civil asset forfeiture in the commonwealth, requiring a conviction before law enforcement can keep seized property suspected of being used in connection with a crime.
Health care: The coronavirus pandemic illustrated the need for – and effectiveness of – telemedicine services that increased access to safe, affordable health care during a challenging time. HB 1332 expands these services across the commonwealth and ensures they’ll exist after the crisis passes. Another new law expands the practice of teledentistry in Virginia. Thanks to these laws, there are now fewer barriers to quality care for Virginians.
Technology and innovation: Americans for Prosperity is focused on creating a framework that gives entrepreneurs at the local level the freedom to innovate. These entrepreneurs should be able to bring new ideas to the commonwealth without having to jump through a myriad of unnecessary regulatory hoops.
Thankfully, laws making it easier to deploy 5G networks and related telecommunications infrastructures to be deployed and affecting the regulation of drones were passed. The broadband bill, HB 831, provides for utility easements that will better protect property rights when government needs to expand broadband infrastructure and makes it easier for rural areas to get high speed internet. The other measure, HB 742, allows localities to own the creation of regulations concerning drones (a responsibility previously only allowed at the state level) and creates the infrastructure to allow drones to deliver what people need, quickly.
Worker Freedom: Every employee should be able to decide whether they want to join a union. Americans for Prosperity successfully protected Virginia’s Right to Work laws this session by defeating SB 426. This win enshrines worker’s rights to voluntarily join a union or association and ensures they cannot be forced to pay union fees without their consent.
Free expression: The legislature passed the Student Press Freedom Bill in April, affirming the rights and protecting the work of student journalists. Virginia student journalists can continue their efforts to bring news to their communities without worrying about administrative censorship.