Local Commentary

Delegate Simon’s Richmond Report

simon-mug4webHere in Falls Church, with our proximity to the Nation’s Capitol, I find a lot of my constituents are more interested in national politics than state and local affairs. I’m often asked what higher office I plan to run for in the future, with the assumption being that I couldn’t possibly actually enjoy being a member of the House of Delegates. Obviously it’s a stepping stone – perhaps to Congress, or statewide office.

My response, whenever I have this discussion, is that I really do enjoy being a member of the House of Delegates; it gives me an opportunity to work on issues that regularly impact people’s lives, right here in Virginia.

On July 1, hundreds of changes to the Code of Virginia will take effect. Not all will affect our daily lives, but some will more than others. For instance, my bill changing the regulations for the licensing of radon remediation companies will probably only impact you if you are in the business of remediating high radon concentrations in people’s homes.

My bill to authorize General District Court Judges to order the state to pay certain legal fees in protective order cases, however, may make it possible for one of your neighbors to go through the process of obtaining a protective order against an abusive spouse or domestic partner. That change could save someone’s life.

Here is a short list of new laws effective July 1, 2015 that you might find interesting.

Industrial Hemp production and manufacturing will once again be legal in Virginia, under a law that will allow the cultivation of industrial hemp as part of a university-managed research program. Hopefully, we are getting past irrational concerns about this particular plant, and can begin to develop a new industry in Virginia at a time when we really do need to diversify our economy.

Although Virginia is still far from legalizing marijuana, even for medical uses, on July 1 it will be legal for an individual to possess cannabidiol oil or THC-A oil prescribed by a certified and licensed doctor for treating or alleviating symptoms of intractable epilepsy.

Crowdfunding will now be exempt from the securities, broker-dealer, and agent registration requirements of the Virginia Securities Act under certain circumstances. If Virginia is to maintain is reputation as a great place to do business in the twenty-first century, it’s essential that we continue to allow our laws to evolve with technology that connects people and money.

For those of you who have ever ordered up a ride on your smartphone, you will be glad to know that we adopted a new law to regulate Transportation Network Companies, like Uber and Lyft, and established a process for their licensing by the DMV. The companies must screen drivers, ensure that all drivers are at least 21 years old and properly licensed to drive, and conduct background checks, including a national criminal background check, a driving history report, and status on the state and national sex offender registries.

If you have a child or loved one with an autism spectrum disorder, you may be glad to know that beginning July 1, Virginia law will mandate health insurers to provide coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorder in individuals from age 2 to 10.

Also, for the first time, the General Assembly has made changes to allow residents to establish Achieving a Better Life Experience savings trust accounts. The savings trust accounts will be administered by the Virginia College Savings Plan to facilitate the saving of private funds for paying the qualified disability expenses of certain disabled individuals once they age out of many services available to children.

If you are a nursing mother, or plan to be one, you may be relieved to learn that the law will now provide addition protection for women who breastfeed in public places. This law provides that a mother may breastfeed in any place where the mother is lawfully present. Previously, the law only allowed breastfeeding on any property owned, leased, or controlled by the Commonwealth.

If you’ve received a state income tax refund on a debit card, which wasn’t easy to convert to cash, your will be thrilled to hear that starting next month, Virginia law once again requires the Tax Commissioner and State Comptroller to implement procedures to allow an individual to elect to have his income tax refund paid by check.

 


Delegate Simon represents the 53rd District in the Virginia House of Delegates. He may be emailed at DelMSimon@house.virginia.gov

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