Northam signs bills to address food insecurity, establish Chesterfield’s public defender’s office

Governor Northam signing a document.
Governor Northam signing a document.(WHSV)
Updated: Mar. 27, 2021 at 2:34 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed several bills into law on Friday, including legislation that would expand the supply for food banks, establish a public defender’s office in Chesterfield and support passenger rail expansion in Southwest Virginia.

House Bill 2202 and Senate Bill 1188 will establish the Virginia Agriculture Food Assistance Program and Fund, which allows Virginia farmers and producers to donate or sell products to food banks. The legislation is expected to increase the availability of fresh produce for food-insecure families.

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.

House Bill 1893 and Senate Bill 1212 establishes the New River Valley Passenger Rail Station Authority. The committee will support passenger rail expansion west of Roanoke.

House Bill 1903 allows localities to reduce the speed limit in residential or business districts. Local governments will be able to reduce the speed to lower than 25 miles per hour, but not lower than 15 miles per hour.

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

House Bill 2266 and Senate Bill 1471 allows the Board of Directors of the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority to increase the frequency and duration of outdoor events that sell alcohol. The laws are expected to provide flexibility to restaurants during COVID-19.

Senate Bill 1284 establishes the Commonwealth Clean Energy Policy, replacing the Commonwealth Energy Policy. The law sets out energy policies and objectives, including the electrification of transportation.

Senate Bill 1300 directs the Board of Local and Regional Jails to review and improve pregnancy-related care for incarcerated people. This includes pregnancy termination, labor and delivery, and postpartum recovery.

The bills will go into effect on July 1, 2021.

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