In a bipartisan effort, the Virginia House of Delegates Wednesday voted to double fines for littering in the Commonwealth, and impose stricter community service guidelines for litterbugs.
HB 1801, introduced by Del. James Edmunds II (R-Halifax), increases the minimum fine for “dumping or disposing of litter, trash, or other unsightly matter on public or private property,” from $250 to $500. The maximum fine, $2500, remains the same.
In addition, litterers will be punished with 40 hours of community service, quadrupling the previous mandatory minimum of 10 hours.
The bill passed the House Wednesday with a vote of 65-32, and with three abstaining, a rare bipartisan showing. Though the bill faced some partisan rancor due to some Democrats’ hesitation to impose mandatory minimum sentences, ultimately both parties came together in an effort to keep Virginia’s roads clean.
The bill now heads to the Senate.
“Littering obviously is a bipartisan issue,” Edmunds told The Virginia Star. Nobody likes to see it. I don’t know anyone who supports it, though some may not agree on the best way to address it.”
“The roads are the worst I’ve ever seen them,” he continued. “The status quo is not doing any good. This bill will hopefully bring attention to a terrible problem. ”
Edmunds said he hopes the bill will be followed by an anti-littering campaign, sponsored by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) or the Virginia Farm Bureau.
The Halifax Republican has long been interested in keeping litter off the streets.
“I have been a participant in the Adopt-a-Highway program that VDOT put together for 25 years,” he said. “Annually I clean up a section of road. The section I clean up is equally as bad every year. Picking up litter is not the solution. We’ve got to change the mindset.”
Edmunds noted that many western states take littering much more seriously, and the roads there are pristine. Often, he said, the cleanliness of the roads is the first thing a person notices about a particular location.
“There’s no reason Virginia can’t be the same,” he said.
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