This year’s General Assembly session passed important bills on subjects ranging from pandemic recovery and divorce laws to stormwater management and facial-recognition technology, a local delegate told the Greater Merrifield Business Association during a virtual presentation May 18.
Del. Marcus Simon (D-McLean) was confident that the pandemic-related struggles of the past 14 months would abate soon. He was upbeat about the commonwealth’s budgetary position, which officials predict will have a $500 million surplus, excluding the estimated $7.2 billion the state will receive under the federal American Rescue Plan Act.
“Virginia is doing very, very well financially right now,” he said. “We ratcheted down new spending and took austere measures.”
Gov. Northam has ended the mask mandate for vaccinated people and likely will lift most of the remaining pandemic restrictions May 28, Simon said. Northern Virginia has a high vaccination rate and the governor is moving with appropriate speed, he added.
State legislators this year passed a bill allowing deductibility of Pay Protection Program loans, plus legislation permitting further use of emergency measures that proved popular during the pandemic, such as outdoor refreshment areas and cocktails to go, Simon said.
The General Assembly also passed bills that challenge illegal evictions and require landlords with four our fewer rental units to give at least 14 days’ written notice before initiating evictions, Simon said. Landlords renting more units will need to offer tenants a payment plan, he said.
First elected in 2013, succeeding the late Del. James Scott (D), Simon will be facing off against Republican Sarah White in the Nov. 2 election.
“It’s been an exciting two years,” Simon said of his most recent term, which commenced after Democrats won control of both houses of the General Assembly in the 2019 elections. “It’s my first time running as the member of a majority. A lot has changed in Virginia.”
Simon, who recently purchased an all-electric car, expressed pleasure at passage of a bill permitting rebates on such vehicles.
Other bills Simon highlighted in his presentation ranged from adding funds to support local governments’ efforts to combat stormwater issues to a change changes to no-fault divorce law and an increase in liability minimums that must be carried by vehicle owners.
Throughout his presentation, Simon answered questions typed in by viewers.
The Sun Gazette caught up with him later regarding whether the General Assembly would be considering limitations regarding the length and scope of special sessions – last year’s lasted an unprecedented 84 days – and restrictions on the governor’s use of emergency powers.
“I don’t see any opportunity to address those issues before the election,” Simon said. “I expect we will see some bills on that topic again during the regular session. Any special session we have this summer will likely be limited in scope to budget and the appointment of justices and judges.”
Legislators also will have a special session this fall to adopt recommendations of the Redistricting Commission, he added.