By Linda Cicoira
Virginia Legislators continued to introduce bills recently to the General Assembly and are awaiting a vote in the Courts of Justice Committee for the decriminalization of “simple” marijuana possession.
The marijuana bill, as written, comes with stipulations. It “provides a civil penalty of no more than $50 for a first violation, $100 for a second violation, and $250 for a third or subsequent violation. Current law imposes a maximum fine of $500 and a maximum 30-day jail sentence for a first offense, and subsequent offenses are a Class 1 misdemeanor.”
The proposal states “suspended sentence/substance abuse screening provisions and driver’s license suspension provisions apply only to criminal violations or to civil violations by a juvenile.” The court could suspend a driver’s license for a civil violation committed by an adult. A conviction would prohibit the purchase or transport of a handgun and disqualification for a concealed handgun permit. Named Senate Bill 997 (SB977), it was introduced by Sen. Adam Ebbin with support from co-patron Del. Mark Levin. Both are from Alexandria.
The bill has been awaiting a vote since July 16, 2018. The General Assembly session will begin Jan. 9 and continue for 45 days.
Introduced recently are proposed bills that would:
• Make it a Class 6 felony to leave “a loaded, unsecured firearm in such a manner as to endanger the life or limb of any person under the age of 18 … Current law provides that any person who recklessly leaves a loaded, unsecured firearm in such a manner as to endanger the life or limb of any child under the age of 14 is guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor.”
• Direct the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission to study health care spending in the state.
• Create a procedure in which a commonwealth’s attorney or law-enforcement officer “may apply to a general district court, circuit court, or juvenile and domestic relations district court judge or magistrate for an emergency substantial risk order to prohibit a person who poses a substantial risk of injury to himself or others from purchasing, possessing, or transporting a firearm.”
• Prohibit public bodies from procuring articles produced by inmates or services provided by inmates. This includes volunteer EMS agencies, fire departments, sheltered workshops, and community service organizations.
• Prohibit broadband providers from offering or renewing services to consumers within any locality in Virginia in which certain media is throttled, blocked, or prioritized on the basis of its content, format, host address, or source.
• Allow the attorney general’s office to represent a member of the General Assembly in any civil matter alleging that such member in his official capacity violated the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The proposal was a recommendation of the FOIA Advisory Council.
• Remove the requirement that the owner a vehicle used as a taxicab attach a statement to that effect to the title of the vehicle prior to the sale, transfer, or disposal of such vehicle. The bill also would remove the requirement requiring the Department of Motor Vehicles to place an indicator on any new title for the vehicle indicating such prior use.
• Add parents who receive support or services from the deceased to the primary list of beneficiaries who may receive a distribution of wrongful death damages.
• Repeal provisions of Virginia code that, among other things, an employee of the state, a locality, or other political subdivision who goes on strikes or willfully refuses to perform the duties of his employment is deemed to have terminated his employment and is thereafter ineligible for employment.
• Remove the exemption from the Virginia Minimum Wage Act of any person who normally works and is paid on the basis of the amount of work done.
• Require the Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority to pay a distiller who operates a government store on the distiller’s licensed premises a commission of not less than 20 percent of the retail price of any goods sold. The bill also allows certain government stores, as determined by the authority, to be open on Sundays for the sale of alcoholic beverages after 10:00 a.m. Under current law, the store may be open on Sundays after 1 p.m.
• Require the Virginia Marine Resources Commission to adopt regulations to implement the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Menhaden and authorize the commission to adopt regulations for managing the state’s menhaden fishery. The bill also requires that any moratorium on the fishery be subject to legislative review. The bill repeals several code sections relating to quotas, allocation of allowable landings, and administrative procedures that will be included in a regulatory frame work for managing the fishery.
• Define pawnbroker to include only natural persons. Under current law, a person, defined to include corporations, partnerships, associations, cooperatives, limited liability companies, trusts, joint ventures, governments, political subdivisions, or any other legal or commercial entities and any successor, representative, agent, agency, or instrumentality thereof, may become a licensed pawnbroker. The bill provides that counties, cities, or towns may choose to extend the license of a pawnbroker, who is not a natural person, for up to a year.
• Require the government-issued identification card presented by a person pawning, pledging, or selling goods, precious metals, or gems to be unexpired and to bear the person’s current legal address. If the government-issued identification does not have the current address, the bill requires other documents to be shown to verify the current address.
• Permit localities to impose transient occupancy taxes on transient room rentals and travel campgrounds in state parks.
By Linda Cicoira