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Virginia General Assembly

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Virginia General Assembly

Seal of Virginia.svg.png
General Information
Type:   State legislature
Term limits:   None
2014 session start:   January 9, 2013
Website:   Official Legislature Page
Leadership
Senate President:   Bill Bolling (R)
House Speaker:  William J. Howell (R)
Majority Leader:   Thomas Norment (R) (Senate),
Kirk Cox (R) (House)
Minority leader:   Dick Saslaw (D) (Senate),
David Toscano (D) (House)
Structure
Members:  40 (Senate), 100 (House)
Length of term:   4 years (Senate), 2 years (House)
Authority:   Art IV, Virginia Constitution
Salary:   $18,000/year (Senate), $17,640/year (House) + per diem
Last Election:  November 8, 2011 100 seats (House)
Next election:  November 3, 2015
40 seats (Senate)
November 5, 2013
100 seats (House)
Redistricting:  Virginia Legislature has control
The Virginia General Assembly is the state legislature of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Its existence dates from the establishment of the House of Burgesses at Jamestown in 1619. It became the General Assembly in 1776 with the ratification of the Virginia Constitution.

The General Assembly is a bicameral body consisting of a lower house, the Virginia House of Delegates, with 100 members, and an upper house, the Virginia State Senate, with 40 members. The House of Delegates is presided over by a Speaker of the House, while the Senate of Virginia is presided over by the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. The House and Senate each elect a clerk and sergeant-at-arms. Unlike the United States Senate, the Senate of Virginia's clerk is known as the "Clerk of the Senate", instead of the title "Secretary of the Senate" used in the U.S. Senate.

The General Assembly meets in Virginia's capital, Richmond. When sitting in Richmond, the General Assembly holds sessions in the Virginia State Capitol, designed by Thomas Jefferson in 1788 and expanded in 1904. The building was renovated in 2005-2006. Senators and Delegates have their offices in the General Assembly Building across the street directly north of the Capitol. The Governor of Virginia lives across the street directly east of the Capitol in the Virginia Governor's Mansion.

The Virginia General Assembly is the oldest legislative body in the Western Hemisphere. It previously met in Jamestown, Virginia from 1619 until 1699, when it moved to [Williamsburg, Virginia and met in the colonial Capitol. The government was moved to Richmond in 1780 during the administration of Governor Thomas Jefferson, and the General Assembly has met there ever since.

As of July 2014, Virginia is one of 23 Republican state government trifectas.

Sessions

Article IV of the Virginia Constitution establishes when the General Assembly is to be in session. Section 6 of Article IV states that the General Assembly is to convene annually on the second Wednesday in January. In even-numbered years, regular sessions are limited to sixty days. In odd-numbered years, regular sessions are limited to thirty days. Section 6 allows the General Assembly to extend its regular sessions by thirty days if two-thirds of each house vote to extend the session.

Section 6 allows the Governor of Virginia to convene special sessions of the General Assembly. Section 6 also allows for a special session to be called when it is requested by two-thirds of the members of each house.

2014

See also: Dates of 2014 state legislative sessions

In 2014, the General Assembly is projected to be in session from January 8 through March 12.

2013

See also: Dates of 2013 state legislative sessions

In 2013, the General Assembly was in session from January 9 through February 25.

Major issues

Major issues in the 2013 legislative session included abortion, education, transportation, gun control, and ending a ban on uranium mining.[1]

2012

See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions

In 2012, the General Assembly was in regular session from January 11 through March 10.[2]

2011

See also: Dates of 2011 state legislative sessions

In 2011, the Legislature was in regular session from January 12 through February 27. On February 27, a special redistricting session was convened. A reconvened session will begin on April 6 at 12 p.m. to consider any Governor's amendments and/or vetoes to legislation passed by the General Assembly. This is the only business that can occur during the reconvened session. [3]

A second special session convened June 9 and lasted through July 29. The session was called to elect judges to the state Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals.[4]

2010

See also: Dates of 2010 state legislative sessions

In 2010, the General Assembly was in session from January 13 to March 13.[5]

Ethics and transparency

Open States Transparency

See also: Open States' Legislative Data Report Card

The Sunlight Foundation released an "Open Legislative Data Report Card" in March 2013. Virginia was given a grade of A in the report. The report card evaluated how adequate, complete and accessible legislative data is to the general public. A total of 10 states received an A -- Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Kansas, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington.[6]

Senate

The Senate of Virginia is the upper house of the Virginia General Assembly. It is composed of 40 Senators and is presided over by the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. Prior to Independence, the other part of government was represented by the Governor's Council, a upper house made up of executive counselors appointed by the Governor as advisers. Each member represents an average of 200,026 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[7] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 176,963.[8]

The lieutenant governor, unlike the Vice President of the United States in the United States Senate, presides daily over the Virginia Senate. In the lieutenant governor's absence, a president pro tempore presides, usually a powerful member of the majority party. The Senate is coequal with the House of Delegates, the lower chamber of the legislature, except that taxation bills must originate in the House, just like in the U.S. Congress.

Virginia senators are elected every four years by the voters of the several senatorial districts on the Tuesday succeeding the first Monday in November. The last such election took place on 6 November 2007.

In the 2007 election, the Democratic Party reclaimed the majority in the Senate for the first time since 1999, when the Republican Party took control of the Senate for the first time in history. Following the 2007 election, the Senate will shift from a 23-17 Republican advantage to a 21-19 Democratic advantage.


Party As of July 2014
     Democratic Party 18
     Republican Party 20
     Vacancy 2
Total 40


The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Virginia State Senate from 1992-2013.

Partisan composition of the Virginia State Senate.PNG

House of Delegates

The Virginia House of Delegates is the lower house of the Virginia General Assembly. It has 100 members elected for terms of two years; unlike most states, these elections take place during odd-numbered years. Each member represents an average of 80,010 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[9] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 70,785.[10] The House is presided over by the Speaker of the House, who is elected from among the House membership by the Delegates. The Speaker is almost always a member of the majority party and, as Speaker, becomes the most powerful member of the House. The House shares legislative power with the Senate of Virginia, the upper house of the Virginia General Assembly. The House of Delegates is the modern-day successor to the Virginia House of Burgesses. The House is divided into Democratic and Republican caucuses. In addition to the Speaker, there is a majority leader, majority caucus chair, minority leader, minority caucus chair, and the chairs of the several committees of the House. The Virginia House of Delegates is considered the oldest continuous legislative body in the New World, having been formed as the House of Burgesses at Jamestown in 1619.

The House has met in Virginia's Capitol Building, designed by Thomas Jefferson, since 1788. In recent years, the General Assembly members and staff operate from offices in the General Assembly Building, located in Capitol Square.

Republicans took control of the traditionally Democratic House of Delegates for the first time since Reconstruction in 1999 (with the exception of a brief 2 year period in which the Readjuster Party was in the majority in the 1880s). However, the Democrats began making a comeback under the leadership of Governors Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, gaining 6 seats during Warner's term in office (2002-2006), and 1 in a special election at the beginning of Kaine's term.

The current make-up is 53 Republicans, 44 Democrats, 2 Independents, and 1 vacancy.

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Virginia State House from 1992-2013.

Partisan composition of the Virginia State House.PNG

Redistricting

See also: Redistricting in Virginia

The General Assembly handles redistricting through the passage of maps as regular legislation subject to gubernatorial veto.

2010 census

Virginia received its local census data on February 3, 2011. The state grew by 13 percent from 2000 to 2010; its growth mostly occurred in the northeastern part of the state, while declines ranging up to -13.4 percent occurred in counties along the southern and western edges. Loudoun County stood out with an 84.1 percent increase. Growth in the largest cities was less generous: Virginia Beach grew by 3.0 percent, Norfolk grew by 3.6 percent, Chesapeake grew by 11.6 percent, Richmond grew by 3.2 percent and Newport News grew by 0.3 percent.[11]

The Assembly was split going into redistricting; Republicans controlled the House, and Democrats controlled the Senate. The House set a 1% standard for allowance of deviation from the ideal district size (88,900 people), while the Senate passed a 2% standard (200,000 being the ideal size). The Senate and House reached a verbal agreement that the houses would draw their own lines and not interfere with the other's.

The House and Senate approved their maps on April 6 and 7, 2011, respectively. While the House had an overwhelming 86-8 vote, the Senate went along party lines 22-18. Governor Bob McDonnell vetoed the maps on April 15, citing concerns about the increase in the number of divided communities, the Senate plan's higher deviation standard, and the partisan vote in the Senate.

The House quickly returned and passed revisions that rejoined several divided districts; Senate Democrats initially would not budge, but the chamber eventually worked out a compromise (passing on a 32-5 vote) that split Virginia Beach, reduced the number of splits in Prince William County, and split the College of William & Mary from Thomas Norment's district. McDonnell signed the revised plan on April 29, 2011.

Legislators

Salaries

See also: Comparison of state legislative salaries

As of 2013, members of the Virginia Legislature are paid $18,000/year in the Senate and $17,640/year in the House. Senators receive $178/day per diem tied to the federal rate and Representatives receive $135/day tied to the federal rate.[12]

When sworn in

See also: When state legislators assume office after a general election

Virginia legislators assume office the second Wednesday in January after the election.

Joint legislative committees

The Virginia General Assembly has no joint standing committees. There are over 100 smaller joint commissions currently.

History

Partisan balance 1992-2013

Who Runs the States Project
See also: Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States and Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States, Virginia
Partisan breakdown of the Virginia legislature from 1992-2013

Virginia Senate: From 1992-2013, the Democratic Party was the majority in the Virginia State Senate for eight years while the Republicans were the majority for 12 years. Virginia was under Republican trifectas for the final two years of the study.

Across the country, there were 541 Democratic and 517 Republican state senates from 1992 to 2013.

Virginia House of Delegates: From 1992-2013, the Democratic Party was the majority in the Virginia State House of Representatives for the first four years while the Republicans were the majority for the last 14 years. Virginia was under Republican trifectas for the final two years of the study.

Across the country, there were 577 Democratic and 483 Republican State Houses of Representatives from 1992 to 2013.

Over the course of the 22-year study, state governments became increasingly more partisan. At the outset of the study period (1992), 18 of the 49 states with partisan legislatures had single-party trifectas and 31 states had divided governments. In 2013, only 13 states have divided governments, while single-party trifectas held sway in 36 states, the most in the 22 years studied.

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Office of the Governor of Virginia, the Virginia State Senate and the Virginia House of Representatives from 1992-2013. Partisan composition of Virginia state government(1992-2013).PNG

External links

References