Northam signs 80 bills, including abortion coverage and shifting of local elections to fall

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam says he’s signed 80 new bills into law.

Among them is a measure that will end a ban on abortion coverage for insurance plans offered through the health benefits exchange in Virginia.

The abortion legislation undoes a ban enacted during Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell’s administration that contained very narrow exceptions.

The legislation will allow insurers to cover abortion services but will not require them to.

Northam’s office says he also signed bills that will shift municipal elections from May to November prohibit school boards from suing families to collect debts on unpaid school meals.

The new laws signed by Northam include the following, according to a news release from the governor’s office:

  • House Bill 2123, sponsored by Delegate Alfonso Lopez, and Senate Bill 1387, sponsored by Senator Jennifer Boysko, make any student eligible for state financial aid if they are eligible for in-state tuition, regardless of citizenship or immigration status. This law will take effect Aug 1, 2022.
  • House Bill 2165, sponsored by Delegate Patrick Hope, allows “heirs property” owners to claim property and provides additional time to pay delinquent taxes. This law is a recommendation from the Commission to Examine Racial Inequity in Virginia Law established by Northam in 2019.
  • House Bill 2175, sponsored by Delegate Luke Torian, and Senate Bill 1327, sponsored by Senator Jennifer McClellan, strengthen protections for homeowners facing foreclosure.
  • House Bill 2013, sponsored by Delegate Danica Roem, prohibits school boards from suing families to collect debts on unpaid school meals.
  • Senate Bill 1290, sponsored by Delegate Monty Mason, codifies Northam’s ConserveVirginia program, a data-driven Geographical Information Systems model to prioritize potential conservation areas across the Commonwealth.
  • House Bill 1896, sponsored by Delegate Sally Hudson, and Senate Bill 1276, sponsored by Sen. Jennifer McClellan, remove the prohibition on abortion coverage in any qualified health insurance plan offered through the Virginia state-based exchange.
  • House Bill 2042, sponsored by Delegate Nancy Guy, and Senate Bill 1393, sponsored by Sen. David Marsden, allow localities to exceed requirements in tree replacement and conservation efforts, including in development projects.
  • Senate Bill 1157, sponsored by Sen. Lionell Spruill, Sr., shifts all municipal elections from May to November, starting in 2022.
  • House Bill 1940, sponsored by Delegate Sam Rasoul, and Senate Bill 1439, sponsored by Sen. Jennifer McClellan, direct the Virginia Department of Education to establish guidelines that permit middle and high school students to attend a civic or political event and receive an excused absence.
  • House Bill 2110, sponsored by Leader Charniele Herring, and Senate Bill 1391, sponsored by Sen. L. Louise Lucas, build on the work started by the Virginia State Crime Commission to collect and study pretrial data across Virginia, including bail, conviction, and sentencing information.
  • House Bill 2250, sponsored by Delegate Kaye Kory, and Senate Bill 1379, Sen. Jennifer Boysko, prohibit the testing of cosmetics on animals and the selling of cosmetics that have been tested on animals beginning in 2022.

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