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Renovations to Halifax County’s courthouse are nearly complete, setting the stage for court activities to move back into the historic facility in late March.

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Bill to jack up littering fine clears Assembly / February 22, 2021

Del. James Edmunds’ bill to double the minimum fine for littering is on its way to Gov. Ralph Northam to sign into law.

Edmunds’ legislation, House Bill 1801, passed the Senate on Wednesday after previously clearing the House on a 65-32 vote. Senate passage came by a 23-14 margin, marking a reversal after the Senate voted 18-20 on Tuesday to reject the bill.

Support for HB 1801 cut across party lines, with Democratic senators providing the bulk of votes for passage. Ten Republicans in the 19-member GOP Senate delegation and four Democrats voted “no.” Senators Bill Stanley and Frank Ruff, who represent Halifax County, both voted “yes.”

“I guess I assumed, which you should never do, that my Republican colleagues would have supported the bill, but they didn’t,” said Edmunds. Nonetheless, “I think it’s a great example of how politics should work. The issue isn’t political, or shouldn’t be. It affects everyone.”

If signed into law by Northam, the legislation will double the starting fine for littering from $250 to $500. Amendments to the original bill cap the maximum fine for repeat offenders at $2,500, and the requirement for community service with a conviction will remain at 10 hours, with offenders required to pick up roadside litter.

“There are five other states with $500 [minimum] fines,” said Edmunds. “In contacting those states, I found that it did have a significant impact on littering, so hopefully it will have the same impact here.”

After the bill’s initial defeat in the Senate, Edmunds said he was approached by state Sen. Scott Survovell, D-Mount Vernon, to discuss bringing up the bill for a second vote. Survovell voted no in Tuesday’s 18-20 setback, giving him the right to submit the legislation for reconsideration.

“I’ve got friends on both sides of the aisle, in both chambers, that I feel like I can talk to,” said Edmunds, who added that he and Surovell both joined the General Assembly in 2010.

He called passage of HB 1801 a “bipartisan victory.

“My goal is not to penalize people $500 every time [they litter], my goal is to stop littering. I’m hoping this bill will do that.” By increasing fines, and sending the message that littering is a serious offense, Edmunds expressed the hope that people will become more aware and less prone to toss their trash by the roadside and into others’ yards.

“I can’t think of a more disrespectful thing to do,” he said.

Edmunds also said he is working with organizations in Halifax County and elsewhere to improve roadside signage to publicize the $500 minimum fine. Halifax County Farm Bureau has offered to help pay for new signs in the county, he added.

Among the bill’s opponents in the House and Senate, there was one delegate who questioned whether people should have to pay $500 for throwing a cigarette butt out their car window, Edmunds said. In his view, someone who thinks nothing of tossing a cigarette butt is going to litter on a regular basis. He called for “zero tolerance” of the practice.

“Quite frankly, that’s where I think the awareness issue needs to come into play. I think commonwealth’s attorneys, law enforcement, they’ll see after this bill passes that Virginia will take littering seriously,” Edmunds said.

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Fantastic news! We need to work for better signage and more fines in Mecklenburg County, too!

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