Governor signs more bills into law; food insecurity and passenger rail included

Published: Mar. 26, 2021 at 1:55 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ/Governor’s Office Release) - Governor Ralph Northam has signed several new pieces of legislation into law, including measures designed to combat food insecurity, boost passenger rail in Southwest Virginia and expand access to broadband.

“These new laws will make a real difference in the lives of Virginians and position our Commonwealth for a strong post-pandemic future,” said Governor Northam. “I am grateful to legislators for their hard work this session and look forward to our continued partnership in the months ahead to build on this progress.”

Bills Governor Northam signed into law:

· House Bill 2203 and Senate Bill 1188 establish the Virginia Agriculture Food Assistance Program and Fund. This initiative allows Virginia farmers and food producers to directly donate or sell their food products to food banks, increasing the availability of fresh produce for food-insecure families.

· House Bill 1893 and Senate Bill 1212 create the New River Valley Passenger Rail Station Authority to support passenger rail expansion west of the City of Roanoke.

· House Bill 1903 increases bicycle safety by allowing localities to reduce the speed limit in residential or business districts.

· House Bill 1923 and Senate Bill 1334 expand an existing broadband capacity pilot program to increase access to high-speed internet in underserved areas of the Commonwealth.

· House Bill 2266 and Senate Bill 1471 provide flexibility to restaurants to serve alcohol outside and during permitted events. These laws codify current policies in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

· Senate Bill 1284 establishes the Commonwealth Clean Energy Policy to codify the goal of Virginia’s transition to a clean energy economy, including prioritizing the electrification of transportation.

· Senate Bill 1300 directs the Board of Local and Regional Jails to review and improve pregnancy-related care in consultation with stakeholders.

· Senate Bill 1442 establishes a public defender office in Chesterfield County, which is currently the largest county in Virginia without a dedicated public defender’s office.

Governor Northam proposed changes to the following bill:

· House Bill 2174 creates a state-administered retirement plan for workers without access to a 401k. Governor Northam’s amendment expands eligibility to allow part-time workers access to the program.

The full list of legislation signed by Governor Northam from the 2021 special session is available here.

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