Gov. Ralph Northam

RICHMOND (from Governor’s office release) —Governor Ralph Northam has signed the Virginia Clean Economy Act and amended the Clean Energy and Community Flood Preparedness Act that requires Virginia to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. It requires new measures to promote energy efficiency, sets a schedule for closing old fossil fuel power plants, and requires electricity to come from 100 percent renewable sources such as solar or wind. Energy companies must pay penalties for not meeting their targets, and part of that revenue would fund job training and renewable energy programs in historically disadvantaged communities.

Governor Northam has also signed nearly two dozen new laws to support working Virginians, including legislation to combat worker misclassification and wage theft, ban workplace discrimination, and prohibit non-compete covenants for low-wage workers. The Governor proposes to increase the minimum wage starting May 1, 2021, and to advance prevailing wage, collective bargaining, and project labor agreement legislation then as well.

House Republican Leader Todd Gilbert commented on the minimum wage hike and the clean energy bill: the following statement: The actions taken by the Governor fail to provide long-term certainty for Virginia’s businesses and their employees. A thirty-one percent increase to operating costs — plus a 25 percent hike in power bills — would be tough in a great economy, they will be potentially devastating as Virginia looks to rebuild.”

Northam also signed new laws to repeal Virginia’s voter ID law, make Election Day a state holiday in Virginia, and expand access to early voting. Also signed: criminal justice reform legislation includes measures raising the felony larceny threshold; permanently eliminating driver’s license suspensions for unpaid fines, fees, and court costs; raising the age of juvenile transfer to adult court; and reforming parole. It includes decriminalizing simple possession of marijuana and sealing the records of prior convictions. The Governor proposed that a study be completed by to assess the impact of fully legalizing marijuana in the Commonwealth.