Virginia State Senate
|Virginia State Senate|
|2015 session start:||January 8, 2014|
|Website:||Official Senate Page|
|Senate President:||Charles Colgan (D)|
|Majority Leader:||Dick Saslaw (D)|
|Minority leader:||Thomas Norment (R)|
Democratic Party (19)
Republican Party (21)
|Length of term:||4 years|
|Authority:||Art IV, Section 2, Virginia Constitution|
|Salary:||$18,000/year + per diem|
|Last Election:||November 8, 2011 (40 seats)|
|Next election:||November 3, 2015 (40 seats)|
|Redistricting:||Virginia legislature has control|
- 1 Sessions
- 2 Ethics and transparency
- 3 Elections
- 4 Redistricting
- 5 Senators
- 6 Standing committees
- 7 History
- 8 External links
- 9 References
Virginia state senate elections are held in odd-numbered years on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. All senate seats are up for election simultaneously; unlike in the United States Senate and many states with four-year senate terms, Virginia senate districts do not have staggered elections.
The Virginia Senate holds regular sessions of 60 days duration during even-numbered years and 30 days duration during odd numbered years. The length of these sessions can be extended by a two-thirds vote of both houses.
As of March 2015, Virginia is one of 23 Republican state government trifectas.
Article IV of the Virginia Constitution establishes when the Virginia General Assembly, of which the Senate is a part, 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.
- See also: Dates of 2014 state legislative sessions
In 2014, the General Assembly will be in session from January 8 through March 12.
Major issues during the 2014 legislative session include expanding Medicaid, a $97 billion spending plan, and raising minimum wage.
- See also: Dates of 2013 state legislative sessions
In 2013, the General Assembly was in session from January 9 through February 25.
Major issues in the 2013 legislative session included abortion, education, transportation, gun control, and ending a ban on uranium mining.
- See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions
In 2012, the Senate was in regular session from January 11 through March 10.
- 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. 
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.
- See also: Dates of 2010 state legislative sessions
Ethics and transparency
Open States Transparency
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.
- See also: Virginia State Senate elections, 2011
Elections for the office of Virginia State Senate consisted of a primary election on August 23, 2011, and a general election on November 8, 2011.
During the 2011 election, the total of all contributions to Senate candidates was $33,496,669. The top 10 contributors were:
|2011 Donors, Virginia State Senate|
|Virginia Republican Party||$3,787,917|
|Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus||$3,119,531|
|Virginia Democratic Party||$2,365,455|
|Virginia Senate Republican Caucus||$1,058,979|
|Republican Party Of Virginia||$740,561|
|Opportunity Virginia PAC||$418,728|
|Middle Resolution PAC||$316,488|
|Virginia Dental Association||$245,963|
|Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association||$245,507|
- See also: Virginia State Senate elections, 2007
Elections for the office of Virginia State Senate consisted of a primary election on June 12, 2007, and a general election on November 6, 2007.
During the 2007 election, the total contributions to Senate candidates was $31,534,141. The top 10 contributors were:
|2007 Donors, Virginia State Senate|
|Democratic Party of Virginia||$2,472,021|
|Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus||$1,351,536|
|Virginia Senate Republican Leadership Trust||$1,333,782|
|Moving Virginia Forward||$914,467|
|Tom Davis for Congress||$784,635|
|Republican Party of Virginia||$760,699|
|Citizens for the Commonwealth||$475,000|
|Republican State Leadership Cmte||$327,221|
|Holtzman, William B||$308,747|
- See also: Virginia State Senate elections, 2003
Elections for the office of Virginia State Senate consisted of a primary election on June 10, 2003, and a general election on November 4, 2003.
During the 2003 election, the total contributions to Senate candidates was $11,439,328. The top 10 contributors were:
|2003 Donors, Virginia State Senate|
|One Virginia PAC||$443,511|
|Virginia Democratic Party||$426,493|
|Virginia Auto Dealers Association||$125,459|
|Virginia Dental Association||$114,250|
|Federal Victory Fund||$112,652|
|Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association||$106,831|
|Virginians For Responsible Government||$104,460|
|Virginia Medical Society||$91,590|
|Virginia Association Of Realtors||$91,025|
| How Vacancies are filled in State Legislatures |
If there is a vacancy in the senate, then a special election must be conducted to fill the vacant seat. Within 15 days of the vacancy, the governing body of the county or city that represents the seat must petition to a circuit court to hold a special election. All special elections must be held promptly. No special election can be held with less than 60 days remaining in the vacant Senator's term or less than 55 days before a statewide primary or general election.
- See also: Redistricting in Virginia
The General Assembly handles redistricting through the passage of maps as regular legislation subject to gubernatorial veto.
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 impressive but still robust in most areas: 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.
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.
- See also: Comparison of state legislative salaries
As of 2013, members of the Virginia State Senate are paid $18,000/year. Senators receive $178/day per diem tied to the federal rate.
When sworn in
Virginia legislators assume office the second Wednesday in January after the election.
- See also: Partisan composition of state senates
|Party||As of March 2015|
The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Virginia State Senate from 1992-2013.
The Lieutenant Governor serves as presiding officer of the Senate. In the event of the lieutenant governor's absence, the President pro tempore becomes presiding officer. The President pro tempore is elected by the Senate.
|Current Leadership, Virginia State Senate|
|President of the Senate||Ralph Northam||Democratic|
|President Pro Tempore of the Senate||Charles Colgan||Democratic|
|State Senate Majority Leader||Dick Saslaw||Democratic|
|State Senate Minority Leader||Thomas Norment||Republican|
List of current members
The Virginia Senate has 11 standing senate committees. They are:
- Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources
- Commerce and Labor Committee
- Courts of Justice
- Education and Health
- General Laws and Technology
- Local Government
- Privileges and Elections
- Rehabilitation and Social Services
Partisan balance 1992-2013
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.
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.
SQLI and partisanship
The chart below depicts the partisanship of the Virginia state government and the state's SQLI ranking for the years studied. For the SQLI, the states were ranked from 1-50, with 1 being the best and 50 the worst. During the course of the study, Virginia experienced both Democratic and Republican trifectas as well as divided governments. For over half the years of the study, Virginia was ranked in the top-10. This occurred during a Democratic trifecta, Republican trifectas and divided government. Both its highest ranking, finishing 1st in 2006, and its lowest ranking, finishing 26th in 1997, occurred during divided governments.
- SQLI average with Democratic trifecta: 11.00
- SQLI average with Republican trifecta: 7.67
- SQLI average with divided government: 9.00
- Virginia General Assembly official government website
- List of Virginia Senators
- Wikipedia:Senate of Virginia
- Population in 2010 of the American states, accessed November 22, 2013
- Population in 2000 of the American states, Accessed November 27, 2013
- Daily Press, "Virginia General Assembly opens, lawmakers ease back into action," January 8, 2014
- WRIC, "Virginia General Assembly To Convene For 2013 Session," January 9, 2013
- StateScape, Session schedules, accessed April 30, 2012
- Virginia General Assembly
- Post Local, Va. assembly to vote Friday on Supreme Court, appeals judges, July 29, 2011
- 2010 session dates for Virginia legislature
- Sunlight Foundation, "Ten Principles for Opening Up Government Information," accessed June 16, 2013
- Follow the Money, "Virginia 2011 Candidates," Accessed August 5, 2013
- Follow the Money, "Virginia 2007 Candidates," Accessed August 5, 2013
- Follow the Money, "Virginia 2003 Candidates," Accessed August 5, 2013
- vakids.org, "Virginia State Legislature For Kids," accessed December 18, 2013
- Virginia General Assembly, "Code of Virginia," accessed December 18, 2013(Referenced Statute 24.2-228.1 (A), Code of Virginia)
- Virgina General Assembly, "Code of Virginia," accessed December 18, 2013(Referenced Statute 24.2-682(C), Virginia Code)
- Virgina General Assembly, "Code of Virginia," accessed December 18, 2013(Referenced Statute 24.2-682(A), Virginia Code)
- U.S. Census Bureau, "U.S. Census Bureau Delivers Virginia's 2010 Census Population Totals, Including First Look at Race and Hispanic Origin Data for Legislative Redistricting," February 3, 2011. Retrieved August 21, 2012.
- NCSL.org, "2012 State Legislator Compensation and Per Diem Table," accessed March 18, 2013
- Senate of Virginia - Leadership
- Virginia Senate,"Standing Committees," retrieved August 11, 2009
State of Virginia
|State executive officers||
Governor | Lieutenant Governor | Attorney General | Secretary of State | Treasurer | Auditor of Public Accounts | Superintendent of Public Instruction | Commissioner of Insurance | Commissioner of Agriculture | Secretary of Natural Resources | Commissioner of Labor and Industry | Chairman of State Corporation Commission |