A Voter’s First Virginia Guide to the Virginia General Assembly

For over four centuries (1619), the Virginia General Assembly has debated and passed policy for the Commonwealth of Virginia. And like the many years before, the Virginia General Assembly has officially convened for 2022 to serve our Commonwealth and its citizens. With changes in party control and leadership this year, a budget, and over 2350 items to consider, this year’s 60-day session is sure to be full of action.

With so much to keep track of, here is a guide to the 2022 Virginia General Assembly:

Important Dates

The 162nd Virginia General Assembly began on Jan 12th. For 60 days the Commonwealth’s Delegates and Senators will introduce, debate, and vote on legislation that will influence the future of Virginia. With thousands of bills already filed, there is a lot for the Assembly to accomplish before adjournment Sine Die on March 12th.

Who’s in the Legislature?

The Assembly is divided into a lower and upper chamber. The lower chamber is the House of Delegates which has 100 legislators that are elected to two-year terms. Currently, Republicans hold a 52-48 majority. Todd Gilbert (R) is the House Speaker and is the presiding officer over the House of Delegates.

The upper chamber, known as the Senate, has 40 legislators. Unlike the House of Delegates, Senators are elected to four-year terms. Democrats have control of this chamber by holding a slim 21-19 majority. The presiding officer for the Senate is Lt. Governor, Winsome Sears (R).

Basic Overview of How a Bill Becomes Law

  1. It all starts when a bill is introduced in the house or the senate. Bills must be patroned (sponsored) by a member or members of the legislature. 
  1. The bill is then assigned to a committee and usually sent to a subcommittee for initial discussion. In committee, the bill is presented and considered. Additionally, legislators may ask questions to the patron, experts, and hear public comment with the option to amend or consider as is. The bill will then either report “advance” onto the next appropriate committee or to the floor of the House or Senate where it originated. The bill may also be passed by (essentially die) or carried over to another session.
  1. Once the bill makes it to the floor, it is read 3 times. Once on the floor, the bill can be amended during second reading. After the third read, the bill is voted on. If the bill gets enough votes to pass, the bill is moved to the other chamber for the same procedure as the originating body. 
  1. Upon arrival at the other chamber, legislators can amend the bill. If they vote to do so, a Committee of Conference will then take up the bill to resolve differences. The bill cannot move forward until both chambers agree on the amended bill.
  1. After approval from both chambers, the bill is sent to the Governor. The Governor may 1) sign the bill into law, 2) amend the bill and return it to the General assembly for approval, 3) veto it and return it to the General Assembly, where both chambers may override with a two-thirds vote, or 4) take no action and the bill becomes law without the Governor’s signature. 
  1. Bills enacted during a Regular Session become effective July 1 following the adjournment of the Regular Session, unless another is specified. 

What to Watch this year:

It can seem like the legislature moves lightning-quick…and it does. So what can you do to stay updated?

Our recommendation is to follow the action around legislation that impacts voters! The two committees that will review election legislation will be the House & Senate Privileges & Elections Committees. 

Here are other helpful links for Virginia Legislative Updates

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