VIRGINIA, USA — Most of the legislation passed earlier this year by the divided Virginia General Assembly and signed into law by Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin will take effect Friday.
That includes measures that lifted a sweeping ban on facial recognition technology, expanded hunting on public lands, and added a new criminal penalty for marijuana possession.
Here is a look at those measures and other notable legislation:
NEW MARIJUANA PENALTY
In 2021, the General Assembly — then fully controlled by Democrats — legalized adult possession of up to an ounce (28 grams) of marijuana and laid the groundwork for retail sales to begin in 2024. Possession of more than an ounce but less than a pound was previously punishable as a civil violation with a $25 fine.
This year's change drew an outcry from civil rights and marijuana justice advocacy groups, who opposed the creation of a new criminal penalty.
The new law allows police agencies to use the technology in certain circumstances, including to help identify an individual when they have reasonable suspicion that the person committed a crime. It can also be used to help identify crime victims or witnesses, sex trafficking victims and unidentified bodies in morgues.
The new legislation explicitly bars the use of facial recognition for surveillance or monitoring.
Lawmakers this year rolled back a recent reform intended to expand public access to certain law enforcement files in closed criminal investigations.
Under the new law, the disclosure of such records to the press and general public will no longer be mandatory under the state’s public records law. Instead, disclosure will again be up to the discretion of the law enforcement agency. The change, which supporters said would increase protections for crime victims and their families, drew opposition from some relatives of crime victims and attorneys who work on wrongful convictions.
PARENTAL SAY IN CLASSROOM MATERIALS
By January, local school boards will have to adopt policies for notifying parents about instructional material containing sexually explicit content.
That’s thanks to a GOP-sponsored law that picked up enough Democratic support in the state Senate to pass.
The law also requires that parents be allowed to review any instructional materials with explicit content and that students be given an alternative assignment if a parent so requests.
HUNTING ON SUNDAYS
A bill permitting hunting on public land on Sundays is set to take effect, as long as the hunting takes place more than 200 yards (180 meters) from a place of worship.
COCKTAILS TO GO
Lawmakers extended for two years the ability of certain businesses to sell mixed drinks for off-site consumption. Virginia's rules were relaxed at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in a move intended to offer struggling restaurants and bars a lifeline.
The ability to sell to-go cocktail sales had been set to expire July 1 and was extended through July 1, 2024.
This year's legislation also created a third-party delivery license that will be necessary to deliver alcoholic beverages purchased by consumers from retail licensees. The license was created to address safety issues including age verification, according to a news release from the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority.
A new law toughens the penalty for stealing catalytic converters.
The emission control devices have become popular targets for thieves in the past two years as prices for the precious metals they contain have skyrocketed.
The legislation makes tampering with or stealing a catalytic converter a Class 6 felony, which is punishable by up to five years in prison. It was previously a misdemeanor. The legislation also requires people who sell catalytic converters to show identification, which the purchaser must record.
SEXUALLY EXPLICIT CONTENT
Another new law aims to crack down on unsolicited sexually explicit pictures and videos.
The measure makes any adult who knowingly transmits an “intimate image” electronically to another adult without their consent subject to financial damages. Under the bill, a court may also restrain the sender from sharing such pictures or video again.
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