Virginia Schools must give in-person classes, death penalty abolished among new laws


On July 1, several Virginia laws will go into effect, which include the abolition of the death penalty, the return to in-person instruction for all schools and laws related to alcohol sales.

Abolishing the death penalty became a top priority for Gov. Ralph Northam and legislative Democrats in the last half of the governor’s term. As of Thursday, the death penalty will be completely removed from the Virginia code as a punishment for any crime and the two people currently on death row will serve life sentences.

The last execution in Virginia was in 2017. There have been eight executions in the past decade and 40 people have been executed since 2000. Although use of the death penalty decreased in recent years, it has a long history in the commonwealth. In its 400-year history, dating back to colonial times, more than 1,300 people have been executed.

Virginia became the 23rd state to abolish the death penalty and the first state in the South to do so.

K-12 schools will also be required to offer in-person instruction five days per week. The law states that schools must provide at least the minimum number of state-required instruction hours in person. Schools must offer all students and staff access to the COVID-19 vaccine, but the state has not issued a vaccine mandate. Many universities, however, are requiring their students to receive the vaccine.

Teachers who instruct on history or social sciences will be required to receive cultural competency instruction or training regarding African American history for new licenses or renewals. School boards will also be required to establish policies for teachers and other employees to receive cultural competency training every two years.

New laws, which extend pandemic-related alcohol laws will also go into effect. This allows bars and restaurants to offer cocktails with takeout and lets them provide beer and wine for off-site consumption.

Other laws will also go into effect: minimum fines for littering will increase from $250 to $500 and releasing balloons into the air will become illegal, subject to a $25 fine for each balloon.

The possession of marijuana for recreational use will also be legal July 1 and certain gun control measures will go into effect. The state is also set to ban skill games sometimes used in restaurants, stores and truck stops. The skill game ban is facing a series of lawsuits.

Some laws that ease voting requirements will also go into effect.

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