Volume 6 | June 25, 2020
Released: Thursday, June 25, 2020
July 1 - New Laws Go into Effect
Additional legislation passed by the General Assembly becomes law on July 1. With the COVID-19 crisis, some laws that impact the budget will be delayed. Most new legislation will not directly impact Virginia churches, but I want to directly address some bills of potential concern.
Nondiscrimination for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The passage of SB868 (https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?201+ful+SB868ER+pdf) has been greatly debated, as it will provide protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in Virginia law for the first time. Having said that, understand these have been protected classifications through the governor’s executive order and various regulations for many years in the following areas:
- employment by state and local governments
- public accommodations (housing, rental properties, lodging, and similar areas)
- housing and other legal contracts
The new law will now extend protections to private employment and will provide a remedy or cause of action for someone who files a discrimination claim. That is, a lawsuit may be brought to punish the offender both financially and criminally. The law does include other areas of protection, including on the basis of religion. It states:
“Conduct that violates any Virginia or federal statute or regulation governing discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions including lactation, age, status as a veteran, or national origin is an unlawful discriminatory practice under this chapter.”
Some have voiced concerns that churches will now be attacked for discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Please note the following in SB868 (https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?201+ful+SB868ER+pdf) regarding protection for religious organizations:
- Page 3, lines 166-168 deal with places of accommodation and indicate churches are not such public places
- Page 5, lines 258-303 deal with employment and allow for religious institutions to discriminate based on their tenets
- Page 15, lines 863-877 deal with the sale, rent, or use of lodging properties owned and operated by religious institutions and allow for discrimination based on their tenets
There is now greater opportunity for various individuals to bring cause of action (lawsuit) for this type of discrimination. We still believe churches and their ministries are adequately protected in the law, but they must be sure there are clear statements in their constitutions/bylaws on their firmly held beliefs in these areas. As I’ve said over the years, proof of this will only be seen as legal cases are heard and judgments made.
Increase in the Minimum Wage
Bills increasing the minimum wage (HB395 and SB7 https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?201+ful+SB7ER2+pdf) were passed but will not go into effect until January 1, 2021. Beginning January 1, 2021, the minimum wage will increase from $7.25 to $9.50 an hour. But it doesn’t stop there!
- On January 1, 2022, it will increase to $11 an hour.
- On January 1, 2023, it will increase to $12 an hour.
- On January 1, 2025, it will increase to $13.50 an hour.
- On January 1, 2026, it will increase to $15 an hour.
I’m sure this will impact payroll for some of our church ministries.
Religious-Exempt Day Cares
Two identical bills clarify staffing ratios in religious-exempt day cares. HB1235 and SB927 (https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?201+ful+SB927ER+pdf) were needed to correct misinterpretations for staffing ratios for mixed-age groups of children.
HB1012 and SB578 (https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?201+ful+SB578ER+pdf) move all day cares under the oversight of the Virginia Department of Education. I will continue to monitor this change to ensure there is no improper intrusion regarding curriculum and instruction in our day cares.
Abortion Regulations Weakened
As expected, abortion regulations were greatly weakened by the passage of HB980 and SB733 (https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?201+ful+SB733ER+pdf), allowing nurse practitioners to perform first trimester abortions along with doctors and removing the ultrasound requirement prior to an abortion. Hospital building requirements were also removed.
VDOE to Develop Policies on Treatment of Transgender Students
For the 2021 school year, VDOE (the Virginia Department of Education) will develop policies to be used in all public schools regarding the treatment of transgender students. HB145 (https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?201+ful+HB145ER+pdf) requires these policies be implemented by all public schools.
HB972 and SB2 (https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?201+ful+SB2ER2+pdf) decriminalize possession of one ounce or less of marijuana. This will result in a fine of $25 but no criminal charges. Any person possessing more than one ounce still faces severe criminal charges.
Casinos and Gambling Expansion
Casino (HB4 https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?201+ful+HB4ER2+pdf), sports betting (SB384 https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?201+ful+SB384ER2+pdf), and regulation of “gray” gambling machine (HB881 https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?201+ful+HB881ER2+pdf) legislation all passed. I’m concerned this will only cause more problems and cost the state more money than it will bring in.
Bills Carried Over to 2021
The 2020 General Assembly set a record by introducing 3,911 pieces of legislation! Due to time constraints, some bills were not heard this year. These bills were “carried over” to next year (which can only be done in even years). Next year, the following issues will be considered:
- repeal of the marriage amendment in our state constitution
- legalization of marijuana
- constitutional amendment providing for reproductive liberty (equality)
ONE Voice for Liberties Conference – September 24-25, 2020
Plans are going forward for our conference! It will be held at Heritage Baptist Church, 7777 Cogbill Road in Chesterfield. The host pastor is Deron Jackson, who also happens to be our current moderator. This year I plan to have the conference live streamed! I hope you plan to come either in person on online. Please register online here: www.vaib.org.
Thank you for your prayers. May God protect you and use you to be a help to others during this time.
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