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Monday brings carload of changes to Virginia laws

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 29, 2013 at 10:56 am •  Published: June 29, 2013

The new tax structure is designed to keep pace with fuel price increases. The steady climb in prices, particularly since 2008, hastened the obsolescence of the volume-based gasoline tax. When it went into effect 27 years ago, gasoline was about one-third of today's prices. As fuel costs increased, people drove less and cars became more fuel-efficient, decreasing the fuel consumption and the taxes collected on it. As revenues ebbed, costs for asphalt, concrete, steel and the labor necessary to build roads soared, forcing Virginia for years to shelve tens of billions of dollars in needed construction projects for lack of money.

There's more grief for owners of hybrid, alternative fuel or electrical vehicles. An extra $64 will be tacked onto annual vehicle registration fees as a share of paying for better roads and bridges.

Starting Monday, using a smartphone to text, read email or do something similar can get drivers pulled over and ticketed. Texting had been a secondary offense, meaning officers could cite offenders only if they were stopped for a superseding violation such as speeding or running a red light. Now, working an iPhone while driving means a $125 first-offense fine, up from $20, and more for subsequent violations.

As one of several education-related reforms, the old system for rating accreditation status of individual public schools is replaced with the grading system. By law, teacher performance evaluations are now required annually, and training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and use or heart defibrillators becomes mandatory for public school teachers and nearly all high school students. School boards must adopt anti-bullying policies. Public schools also will be required to develop teams to assess security threats and conduct at least two lockdown drills per year, measures enacted with near-unanimous backing after December's elementary school shootings in Newtown, Conn.

Also taking effect Monday is a two-year moratorium on the use of aerial drones by police and state agencies, and the clandestine use of electronic GPS devices to track a person's movements becomes a crime.

Also, much public information becomes off-limits. Records of people who hold permits to carry concealed weapons will no longer be public. Information about minors participating in public parks and recreation programs, emails by Virginia legislators and their staffs, and public disaster response plans are being exempted from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.

In addition, an archaic and unenforceable 1950 law against "lewd and lascivious cohabitation" by unmarried couples is repealed effective Monday. And doctors who test patients for Lyme disease will be compelled to warn patients that some tests can fail to detect the disease.



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