New Laws, Next Session, and Important Updates

Dear friend:

I wish you and your loved ones a very happy new year!

It has been my honor to serve you and our community through these difficult times. With the political turmoil and the many challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, this has been a year like no other. But we have so much to be proud of as we have worked together to manage and overcome the obstacles we have faced.

The General Assembly will go back into session in January. As a precaution, we will meet virtually. We have strong leadership, and working together I am confident we will be able to get the job done for the people of our great Commonwealth.

I am grateful for the confidence you have placed in me and look forward to continuing to work for you and the interests of our community in the coming year. Thank you for your continued support.

With gratitude and hope for the new year,

Delegate Kathleen Murphy
House District 34

 Accomplishments in the General Assembly

This year in the General Assembly we:

  • Expanded voting rights,
  • Enacted meaningful criminal justice reform,
  • Passed the Virginia Clean Economy Act to fight climate change and put Virginia on a carbon free trajectory by 2050,
  • Raised the minimum wage,
  • Established stricter gun violence prevention measures including limiting access to firearms for those with mental health concerns and preventing "straw purchases" of guns that are then sold on the street,
  • Passed the Virginia Values Act to prohibit discrimination in employment and housing on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity,
  • Enhanced road safety by banning the use of handheld devices while operating a vehicle,
  • Passed legislation to require insurance companies to cover life saving formula for people with the rare disease PKU,
  • Prohibited price gouging during the declared state of public emergency,
  • And passed the Equal Rights Amendment!

Important changes taking effect on January 1

Starting January 1, it will be against the law to hold a phone or mobile device while driving. Here are some alternatives should you need to make a call:

    If you choose to use headphones, please keep in mind that Virginia law states that you may only have one earbud in while driving.
    If your car is equipped with Bluetooth, connect your phone to your vehicle's audio system.
    Consider having a passenger answer your calls via speakerphone so you can talk hands free.
    Use a cell phone mount to hold you phone.

The first offense will result in a fine of $125. The second offense, or the fine for using a phone in a construction zone, is $250.

The Dulles Toll Road will be going permanently cashless on January 1, 2021. Manual toll collecting ended on April 6, as part of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s response to the pandemic. This change will now become permanent with the road moving to all electronic tolling.

All lanes on the Dulles Toll Road are equipped with electronic tolling, which accept the following forms of payment:

  • Any lane can be used with a valid E-ZPass account or other form of electronic tolling. If toll lange cameras identify a license plate associated with an E-ZPass account, that account will not be charged for the transaction even if an E-ZPass is not present in the vehicle.
  • The GoToll, Slora, and Peasey Drive On smartphone apps are also accepted as payment.
  • Drivers passing through all toll plaza lanes without electronic payment will be sent a payment notice by mail. Missed tolls can be paid online on VDOT's toll violation website.

Vaccines and Testing

Virginia is currently distributing vaccines to healthcare workers and individuals in long-term care facilities (e.g. nursing homes). Essential workers, the elderly, and high risk populations will be next.

You can learn more about the vaccine and Virginia's vaccination strategy on the VA Department of Health website.

In addition to wearing masks and avoiding indoor spaces, one of the most effective ways to slow the spread of the virus is to get tested. Find a testing site near you here.

The New Federal Stimulus

The new federal stimulus package includes several measures of relief for individuals and businesses.

Individual Stimulus Payments: Individuals who earned less than $75,000 in 2019, heads of household who earned less than $112,500, and couples earning less than $150,000 are eligible for the full $600/person payment. The payment starts phasing out after $75,000 and disappears entirely for individuals earning more than $87,000 (or couples earning over $174,000).

While dependent children under 17 will also receive $600 each, it doesn't appear that adult dependents (like college students or elderly parents) qualify for the payments.

If your family added dependents in 2020, or you earned too much in 2019 to qualify (but would qualify in 2020), you may not receive your full payments immediately. You can request additional money when you file your 2020 taxes. If you qualified based on you 2019 income, but you 2020 income would have reduced your payment, you won't have to pay it back, nor will it count as taxable income.

Unemployment benefits: Up to $300 per week will be provided through March 14. An additional $100 per week is available for freelancers and independent contractors through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.

Eviction Moratorium: The CDC's evictions moratorium has been extended through January 31, 2021. Find more information for homeowners and renters here.

Small Business Relief: The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has been extended with additional funds for forgivable loans. The PPP is now available to nonprofits and local media outlets.

PPP borrowers will be able to deduct expenses paid for with forgiven loans on their taxes.

Contact my office if you need help with any of these programs.

Next session

The next regular session of the General Assembly starts on January 13.

I am eager to build on our progress to improve access to healthcare, prevent gun violence, protect our environment, strengthen housing protections, and continue to mitigate the negative effects of the public health crisis.

Starting in early January, I will be sending regular updates on our progress.

You can let me know your thoughts and priorities by simply replying to my emails. I am eager to hear from you.