Gov. Northam signs new laws supporting COVID-19 response, reform policing

Mask mandate violators face $500 civil penalty
Updated: Oct. 21, 2020 at 6:48 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Governor Ralph Northam’s executive orders, including the indoor mask mandate, now comes with the possibility of a $500 fine if violated.

Wednesday, Ralph Northam signed a host of bills into law stemming from the General Assembly’s special session

One change is over how the governor’s executive orders are enforced. Now, instead of it being a class one misdemeanor it’s a $500 civil penalty. This gives the governor’s mask mandate more teeth.

“We’re not out there trying to punish people. We really want to educate people and have them be part of the solution but there are those individuals that don’t want to follow the guidelines. So this will provide a way, a civil penalty. It won’t go on the criminal record,” said Northam.

Northam, a Democrat, signed 16 new laws and proposed changes to five bills that will support the Commonwealth’s ongoing COVID-19 response and advance criminal justice reform.

Highlights include laws that require school boards to post COVID-19 plans; increase the penalty for falsely summoning police related to someone’s race, grant the Commonwealth authority over ICE facilities; and allow the attorney general to investigate “pattern or practice” of law enforcement violations.

Northam did amend the headlight bill to clarify that law enforcement can stop someone for driving at night with both headlights or brake lights out.

The governor is set to sign another batch of bills into law later this week.


Governor Ralph Northam announced he has signed 16 new laws and proposed changes to five bills that will support the state’s ongoing COVID-19 response and advance criminal justice reform.

Last week, the Virginia House passed eight bills during its special session, which were then sent to the governor’s desk.

Governor Northam signed the following laws to support COVID-19 response and recovery efforts:

  • House Bill 5041 (Delegate Head) and Senate Bill 5042 (Senator Kiggans) require the Board of Health to establish protocols related to a safe nursing home, hospice, and nursing facility visits.
  • House Bill 5048 (Delegate Sickles) and Senate Bill 5090 (Senator Dunnavant) provide additional clarity to the Virginia Department of Health regarding the publication of disease outbreak data.
  • House Bill 5093 (Delegate Watts) and Senate Bill 5117 (Senator Deeds) allow a $500 civil penalty for violations of a Governor’s Executive Order, instead of the Class 1 misdemeanor currently dictated by Virginia Code.
  • House Bill 5047 (Delegate Murphy) strengthens Virginia’s anti-price gouging laws during declared states of emergency.
  • Senate Bill 5039 (Senator Marsden) establishes a formal program for the purchase and distribution of personal protective equipment during a public health threat.
  • House Bill 5087 (Delegate Tran) extends the date by which the Virginia Employment Commission is required to establish and implement a short-time compensation program and removes the program’s sunset clause.
  • Senate Bill 5083 (Senator McClellan) requires Virginia school boards to publicly post their plans and strategies for mitigating the spread of COVID-19.
  • Senate Bill 5017 (Senator Boysko) grants the Commonwealth the ability to establish and enforce health standards at local correctional facilities used by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or other federal agencies.

Governor Northam signed the following laws to reform criminal justice and policing:

  • House Bill 5098 (Delegate Askew) increases the penalty for falsely summoning or giving false reports to law enforcement officers due to an individual’s race, religious conviction, gender, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, color, or national origin.
  • House Bill 5072 (Delegate Lopez) and Senate Bill 5024 (Senator Lucas) allow the Attorney General to open investigations related to a suspected “pattern or practice” of misconduct among law enforcement officers.
  • House Bill 5062 (Delegate Mullin) and Senate Bill 5033 (Senator Surovell) restore the practice of requiring judges to dismiss charges when both parties (prosecution and defense) agree.

Governor Northam proposed changes to the following bills:

  • House Bill 5046 (Delegate D. Adams) and Senate Bill 5080 (Senator Barker) expand Medicaid coverage of telemedicine care. Governor Northam added an emergency clause to make this legislation effective immediately upon passage.
  • House Bill 5115 (Delegate Price) expands eviction protections for Virginians who experienced a loss of wages due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Governor Northam added an emergency clause to make this legislation effective immediately upon passage.
  • House Bill 5058 (Delegate Hope) and Senate Bill 5029 (Senator Lucas) prohibit law enforcement from initiating traffic stops in certain instances. Governor Northam amended this legislation to ensure law enforcement can initiate a traffic stop when an individual is driving at night without the use of both headlights and/or without the use of both break lights.

For a full list of legislation signed by the governor from the special session, click here.

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