MARK IN THE NEWS:
Del. Mark Levine joins the crowded race for Virginia lieutenant governor
Or by mail and phone:
301 King St
Alexandria, VA 22314
Happy New Year!
As we welcome 2021, I wanted to make sure you knew about five new laws that take effect in Virginia today.
Keeping Health Care Costs Low and Transparent
1. Surprise billing in healthcare is banned. For a long time, it has been far too common for Virginians to go to an in-network healthcare facility, only to discover when you receive the bill that the person who provided your care was out-of-network and was therefore charging you four to twenty times the price you'd pay if they were in network!
Home Alone: not serious.
Surprise billing: very serious.
I've long sought to prohibit this, and today, one of my efforts to do so took effect. In 2020, I introduced HB189 to prohibit surprise balance billing in healthcare. HB1251 incorporated my bill, and it became law.
Under the new law, patients who receive out-of-network care at a hospital covered by their plan—emergency care or treatment from an out-of-network doctor—can only be charged the in-network rate required by their plan, including their usual copay or deductible.
2. Cost of insulin capped at $50 per month. Virginia residents who use insulin will get some financial relief. The new law prohibits health insurance companies from forcing patients pay more than $50 for a 30-day supply. The law will apply regardless of the type or amount that a person needs. I was one of many co-patrons of Delegate Lee Carter's bill to make this happen. Keeping the costs of drugs low and transparent has also long been a priority of mine. Only two states have set a lower cap for the cost of a thirty day supply.
Firearms Training Required for Permit
3. Anyone who applies for a permit to carry a concealed handgun must take a firearms training or safety course in person—not online or by video—as the law previously allowed.
Gone are the days of letting people acquire a concealed carry permit if they can answer questions like:
Two of the not-so-difficult questions from a Virginia concealed-carry test.
You may be forgiven for wondering if these questions are a parody. They are not. They are actual questions on a multiple-choice exam to allow someone to obtain a concealed-carry permit in Virginia.
Before today, all someone had to do was take a 10-question multiple-choice test, including questions like these, to show competency for a permit. And at the end of the test, the test-taker received the answers. How convenient! So if someone failed the test the first time, they could take the same test with the same questions in the same order again and again and again and again until they got it right. (By the fourth time, presumably they would have written the multiple-choice answers down: B, A, C, D, D, A, C, B, A, D. Then, even a five-year-old could pass the test.)
Under prior Virginia law, you didn't even need to have ever touched a gun in your life to get a permit to conceal a firearm you are carrying.
I've long supported requiring people to have had some basic firearms training before carrying a concealed weapon. See video below:
Well, Virginia has a new law today.
The law requires firearms instructors to be certified by the state or the National Rifle Association. I preferred only allowing state-certified instructors, instead of allowing the NRA to certify instructors as well, but the Virginia Senate refused to pass the legislation unless we allowed NRA-instructors unlicensed by the state to also certify competency for these permits. While I opposed that particular modification, this legislation is still a major step forward.
I was proud to be the only co-patron of Delegate Alfonso Lopez's bill last session to make this change.
4. Employers who misclassify employees as independent contractors face new penalties.
Worker misclassification is a form of wage theft. This problem has been especially rampant in the building trades. Now, workers will be considered employees unless the worker or employee demonstrates the worker is a contractor.
Companies trying to take advantage of their workers by misclassifying them are now subject to fines and the prospect of being barred from receiving public contracts.
This was also a long-held goal of mine, and I was pleased to co-patron this bill carried by Delegate Jeion Ward last session.
Don't Text and Drive!
5. It is now illegal in Virginia to hold a cellphone while driving on a highway. This law actually took effect on July 1, but its enforcement has been held off until now to allow for more public education on the new rule. (The previous law only prohibited holding a phone while driving in a work zone, or reading or typing an email or text while driving.)
There are some exceptions:
- An operator who is lawfully parked or stopped
- Any person using a handheld personal communications device to report an emergency
Violations are punishable with a fine of $125 the first time, and $250 for repeat offenses.
Anyone who’s caught using a phone in a work zone will get a $250 fine.
You’re still allowed to talk on the phone while driving, just not to hold the phone.
Learn more about the law by visiting the Drive Smart Virginia website.
Mark Levine for Lieutenant Governor
You can learn more about my campaign for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia by clicking here.
Thank you to all who have donated already. I've only been in the race ten days, and I've been pleasantly overwhelmed with the positive response.
To volunteer to help make me the next Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, click here.
May 2021 bring as much joy and healing
as 2020 brought us sadness and sickness.
I thank you again for the honor and privilege of serving you.
Delegate Mark Levine
Serving Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax in Virginia's 45th District