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COLUMN — July 1 brought new laws and big changes to Virginia

On July 1, legislation passed during the 2020 General Assembly session became law, with some exceptions.

Several changes were made to Virginia’s election law. This includes HB 19, which will eliminate the photo-ID requirement for voting. This bill rolls back Virginia’s voter ID laws. Rather than show a photo ID, this bill allows voters with no ID to simply sign a sworn statement that says they are who they say they are. HB 201 will implement same-day voter registration allowing voters to register and vote on Election Day. This bill has a delayed enactment date of Oct. 1, 2022.

Virginia was named CNBC’s 2019 Best State for Business, but we didn’t get there by accident. House Republicans helped keep taxes low, reduced regulations, promoted a stronger workforce, and protected Virginia’s business climate from Democratic policies that would have killed jobs. We are now seeing those policies be enacted.

On taxes, Democrats quickly implemented new or additional taxes on Virginians. Republicans have worked to cut taxes as much as possible. The new taxes and fees being levied by House Democrats will undoubtedly be felt by our constituents soon. The new and increased taxes passed this session total almost $2 billion.

The new majority also created a dozen new causes of action for workers to sue their employers. Among them are lawsuits for “misclassification” that will allow contract workers who think they should be treated as actual employees to sue; lawsuits for any violation of the Virginia Human Rights Act, including new provisions barring discrimination on the basis of LGBT status, gender identity, and more; a cause of action for low-wage employees to sue if they are required to sign a non-compete covenant as a term of employment.

The General Assembly passed seven out of eight gun control bills endorsed by Gov. Ralph Northam. Democrats have abandoned all pretense of moderation in their pursuit of gun control. Where they were once content to nibble around the edges of the Second Amendment, now that they’re in control they’ve adopted criminalizing law-abiding citizens, banning the most common firearms and magazines, and demanding citizens turn over their lawfully purchased property as their central policies. Republicans are committed to stopping gun violence, but we’re committed to doing it in a way that respects the Second Amendment — and a way that works.

I constantly hear public education as one of the most important issues among my constituents. Republicans in the General Assembly have championed increased funding for public schools and higher teacher pay, all while adopting reforms to the SOLs and making sure more money is spent in the classroom. Republicans are leaving Democrats a K-12 educational system that is one of the best and safest in the nation.

This year’s budget, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, made significant new investments in education, including $1.4 billion in additional K-12 funding over the biennium (roughly $350 million more than what re-benchmarking called for), a 2% raise in FY 2021, a 2% raise in FY 2022; $98 million for early childhood education; increased funding for school counselors; established the infrastructure and operations fund in which 30% of deposited funds in FY 2021 and 40% of deposited funds in FY 2022 will be dedicated to non-recurring expenditures, included a floor ensuring every division receives $200,000 minimum, intended to address a wide range of capital needs including roof repair, general renovations and repairs, purchase of school buses, etc.

Del. C. Matthew Fariss represents Buckingham in the Virginia House of Delegates. His email address is DelMFariss@house.virginia.gov.