OVERVIEW OF LEGISLATURE
The Virginia Legislature consists of the Governor, the House of Delegates and the Senate. The House of Delegates has 100 elected officials and the Senate has 40 elected officials. The district boundaries for the delegates are different than those for the senate.
Currently the democratic party holds the majority in all areas of the Virginia legislature. In the last election cycle approximately 30% of all of the elected representatives ran unopposed. The House of Delegates are elected every two years while the Senate and Governor are elected every four years.
Session and special sessions
The Virginia legislature is a part time legislature which meets yearly from January until March. In the event of pertinent issues arising, a special session can be called where they meet to address specific issues predetermined by the Governor. Recently in both regular and special sessions the number of bills each elected official can bring forth has been limited.
How a Bill becomes a Law
New bills can originate from many sources. These bills typically include paid lobbyists, special interest groups, local governments, constituents and various individuals or stakeholders.
Once a Bill is drafted it is assigned to a committee. There are fourteen committees in the house and eleven committees in the senate. These committees are all headed by the “Chair” who is appointed to lead the committee. The Chair determines which bills are heard and sets the decorum of the committee. In committee a bill can be tabled, which means it is “paused’ and will not move forward. If it is not tabled, it may be voted on. Iif the vote favors the bill, the bill moves to the full floor for a vote from all the members in that division of the legislature.
If the bill is passed it will wait until crossover when it will be assigned to a committee on the side of the legislature. Crossover is when all the bills that have been passed on one side of the legislature (House or Senate) move to the other side, where the committee and voting process starts again. All bills move over on the same date. If the Bill is amended in any way, it is sent back to the originating side to be voted on again. The bill must pass by vote in both the Senate and the House written and amended in the exact same manner. If the bill were to be tabled or fail in committee, the patron can discharge the bill and bring it to the full floor for a vote.
Once the Bill has passed both houses it goes to the Governor. The Governor can do one of three things - 1) sign and it will become law, 2) veto and it dies, or 3) amend it. If the bill is amended it is sent back to the legislature to be passed again in both houses with the amendments.