Thursday, September 28, 2023

Gov. Ralph Northam signs 80 bills into law. Here’s a breakdown of three

Virginia State Capitol (Courtesy Virginia General Assembly)
Gov. Ralph Northam recently signed 80 bills into law. Above is a picture of the Virginia State Capitol building. (WYDaily/ Courtesy Virginia General Assembly)

Make way for new state laws.

On March 12, Gov. Ralph Northam announced that he signed 80 bills into law. 

“These new measures will support working Virginians, boost civic engagement, and help us continue building a stronger, more inclusive Commonwealth,” Northam said in a prepared statement on March 12. “I am grateful to the General Assembly for their hard work on these important issues, and I am proud to sign these bills into law.”
So what are these new laws and what do they mean for you?
Here are just a few of the bills Northam signed last week. You can see a full list of the recently passed laws here.

Discrimination against disability added to the Virginia Human Rights Act

Also known as HB 1848, this bill added discrimination on the basis of disability as an unlawful discriminatory practice under the Virginia Human Rights Act.

Not only does the law protect disabled workers, it also requires employers to make “reasonable accommodation to the known physical and mental impairments of an otherwise qualified person with a disability, if necessary to assist such person in performing a particular job, unless the employer can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the employer,” according to a description of the bill from Virginia’s Legislative Information System.

The bill prohibits employers from taking adverse action against an employee who requests or uses a reasonable accommodation.

The employer cannot deny employment or promotion opportunities to an otherwise qualified applicant or employee, because “such employer will be required to make reasonable accommodation to the applicant or employee.”

The employer also cannot require an employee to take leave if another reasonable accommodation can be provided to the known limitations related to the disability.

Abortion Health Coverage

Introduced by Senator Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond), SB1276 removes the ban on abortion coverage for health insurance plans that are offered through the health exchange, making Virginia the first state in the South to end these restrictions on abortion access.

Before this law was signed, abortion was the only legal medical procedure that is prohibited by Virginia law from being offered by private companies that sell plans under the exchange in Virginia.

SB1276 ends that ban.

“This bill will remove yet another medically unnecessary barrier preventing access to reproductive health care,” said Sen. McClellan in a news release on Feb. 16. “The current ban was put in place for political reasons. Access to coverage should not depend on the type of insurance you have.”

Last April, Northam signed the Reproductive Health Protection Act, which repeals medically-unnecessary restrictions on women’s healthcare.

Senate Bill 733 and House Bill 980, sponsored by Sen. McClellan and House Majority Leader Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria), respectively, repeals Virginia’s mandatory ultrasound law and 24-hour waiting period prior to abortion.

The legislation also rolled back politically motivated “TRAP” restrictions on women’s health centers, which are designed to force their closure and make it more difficult for residents to get access to the healthcare services.

“Abortion is an essential part of comprehensive, reproductive health care, and one of the most common and safest medical procedures performed in this country. In fact, one in four women will have an abortion in her lifetime,” said Tarina D. Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, in a statement from the Feb. 16 news release.

“No person ever plans on having an abortion, but when an unplanned pregnancy or a tragic turn of events for a wanted pregnancy occurs, they should have access to safe, affordable, and accessible reproductive healthcare,” Keene added.

Bipartisan Teen Driving Bill

This bill’s origin story began in York County after Tammy McGee lost her 16-year-old son, Conner Guido, in a car crash after the homecoming dance at Tabb High School in 2019.

The crash claimed the lives of three teenage boys, including Guido.

RELATED STORY: Her son died in a car crash. Now this mother is advocating for change

The bill HB1918, introduced by Del. Martha Mugler (D-Hampton), is a teen driver safety bill which would require “any student who applies to obtain a pass to park a vehicle on school property to provide evidence that the student possesses a valid driver’s license or driver privilege card.”

This bill applies to all public high schools in the state and a standardized form would be developed for this process.

RELATED STORY: Tabb High student who died in a crash is being remembered through new soccer tourney

The bill also includes a requirement for the 10th-grade health education curriculum in each public high school to include instruction on the dangers of distracted driving and speeding.

Mugler, who represents York County, Poquoson and Hampton for Virginia’s 91st House of Delegates District, worked on the teen driver safety bill with Guido.


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