New Virginia Laws You Need to Know - NBC4 Washington

New Virginia Laws You Need to Know



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    Beginning Friday, more Virginians in abusive relationships will find protective court orders easier to get, the absentee votes of deceased voters will finally count, and you can bring your own bottle of wine with you to a restaurant.

    Those are among hundreds of new Virginia laws set to take effect on July 1, the same time state government enters a new fiscal year.

    Also, people freed from jail on bail or those out on probation can be tracked by GPS devices, the state starts a fresh budget year, and people who were sexually abused as children will have 20 years to sue their attackers, not just two.

    Those are among hundreds of new laws enacted by the General Assembly last winter that take effect when July 1 arrives.

    Lawmakers this year made sweeping expansions of the protective order law, extending it to people who fear harm from abusive dating or a workplace relationship. Previously, the 74,000 protective orders issued annually in Virginia applied only to family members or people being stalked.

    The change came after the beating death of University of Virginia women's lacrosse player Yeardley Love. Her ex-boyfriend, former UVa men's lacrosse player George Huguely, was arrested and charged in her death. Police say there was evidence of a fight between the two a few days before her body was found in May 2010.

    The legislature, after wrenching and emotional testimony from victims of long-ago childhood sexual abuse, granted a tenfold increase in the time their abusers have to fear retribution from financially and personally ruinous lawsuits.

    The statute of limitations, under the new law, extends either 20 years from the time of the abuse or from the moment a victim who has repressed the unbearable memory -- sometimes for decades -- remembers the attack. It passed despite opposition from the Roman Catholic Church, which has been rocked by allegations of abuse by some of its priests.

    Landlords and those who hold real estate licenses who know a building contains defective Chinese drywall must disclose it to a prospective tenant or buyer. Defective drywall imported from China has been blamed for numerous problems, including corrosion of electrical wiring, appliances and electronics.

    In the state's general district courts, the monetary cap on awards plaintiffs may seek in lawsuits increases from $15,000 to $25,000.

    Election laws were finally changed so that the will of an eligible voter expressed in an absentee ballot is not ignored if the voter dies before election day. Virginia has yet to embrace early voting, as many states have, and has only grudgingly loosened its absentee voting rules.

    Wine connoisseurs will be able to bring a favored or hard-to-find vintage to a restaurant, but don't think you'll get out without having to pay. The new law allows restaurants to levy a "corkage fee" for wines patrons bring in with them. 

    Many towns where people crave a drink will no longer be bound by the laws of a dry county. Towns with populations of 1,000 or more can hold their own referendums to go "wet" in a dry county, or to go dry in a wet county.

    For the first time, people sprung from jail on a secured bond, probationers or those serving suspended sentences can be outfitted with global positioning system tracking devices so authorities can track their whereabouts at any moment.

    Gun owners get some new advantages. One new law expands homestead exemptions to firearms, allowing debtors to shield one gun up to $3,000 in value from creditors. And holders of concealed weapons permits will be able to obtain a replacement for permits lost, destroyed or stolen for a $5 fee.

    Utility companies will face new limits on their ability to cut electrical service to delinquent customers with serious medical conditions. The new law gives the State Corporation Commission until Oct. 31 to implement the new regulations.

    Roadside stands or farmers markets with sales of $1,000 or less in produce and eggs are exempt from state sales and use taxes after July 1. And the private homes of beekeepers who process and prepare honey from hives they own are exempt from the state agriculture commissioner.

    Virginia closes the books on fiscal year 2011 and opens fiscal year 2012 with an amended biennial budget that modestly boosts public school funding and provides some aid to slow rapid tuition jumps at state-supported colleges and universities. While the budget also requires state employees to contribute 5 percent toward their pension plans for the first time in more than a generation, it fills the gap with a 5 percent pay increase.