Controversial, life-saving laws go into effect Sunday

Posted at 7:33 AM, Jun 29, 2012
and last updated 2012-06-29 08:00:36-04

RICHMOND, Va (WTVR) -- In just days a number of bills passed during this year's General Assembly session and signed into law, will officially go into effect.  Some of the laws created quite a stir and put Virginia under the national microscope.

It wasn't long ago when lawmakers were at the Capitol discussing and debating several pieces of legislation.  And the newly approved laws will go into effect Sunday, July 1. 

One such mandate going into effect is the controversial ultrasound law.  The legislation made national headlines.  The original version would have required women seeking an abortion to have a transvaginal ultrasound, but the governor amended the bill and as it stands women are now required to have an external ultrasound before having an abortion.

Another contentious law going into effect is the the voter ID legislation.  In November, Virginians will have to show proper identification when you head to the polls.  But if you do not have ID at the time of voting, you can still cast a provisional ballot.  However you must return with the required ID if you want your vote to count.  Critics of the legislation argued the law makes it difficult for minorities, the poor and the elderly who may find it difficult to get government issued identification.  But proponents say the law is designed to prevent voter fraud.

On Sunday, Virginia will also begin enforcing the regions toughest drunken driving penalty.  It will require first time DUI offenders to install in their cars, blood alcohol testing devices--or breathalyzers--that can lock the ignition.  The new law is expected to roughly quadruple the number of people required to use the ignition interlock devices.

Schools across the state will also be impacted on July 1.  A new law will require schools to have an Epipen on site.  The legislation was first introduced after 7-year-old Amarria Johnson died in January after suffering a severe allergic reaction to a peanut while at Hopkins Elementary School in Chesterfield.  Lawmakers say they're optimistic the legislation will help prevent another tragedy like Amarria's.

"Obviously I have a personal interest in that bill because I was the chief patron in the Senate, along with a number of other patrons," said Virginia Senator Donald McEachin.  "It was something that passed on a bipartisan basis and again it's something I think will end up saving the lives of a lot of young people over time."

The new legislation will be known as "Amarria's Law."

The General Assembly also redefined bath salts, so prosecutors will be able to go after stiffer penalties against abusers of the synthetic drug.