How the General Assembly Works

The Virginia General Assembly meets annually, with the session beginning on the second Wednesday in January. The legislature meets for 60 days in even-numbered years and for 30 days in odd-numbered years, with an option to extend the annual session by a maximum of 30 days (typically, the short sessions are extended to 45 days).

The General Assembly has the power to:

  • Approve the budget
  • Enact laws not specifically prohibited by the state or federal constitution
  • Pass resolutions, including ones that initiate public policy studies
  • Levy taxes
  • Confirm the Governor’s appointments of state agency heads and board members
  • Elect State Supreme Court Justices, Court of Appeals, Circuit and District Court judges and the members of the Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission
  • Elect the Auditor of Public Accounts, the commissioners of the State Corporation Commission and members of the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission

The House of Delegates

There are 100 Delegates, each elected in the odd-numbered years for a two-year term. Each Delegate represents approximately 77,000 citizens.

On the first day of the new session following the House election cycle, the Speaker of the House is elected for a two-year term by the House members. The Speaker of the House presides over the House floor sessions, assigns members to the various committees, and refers all bills and resolutions to their respective committees.

There are 14 standing committees in the House and approximately 22 delegates on each committee. For the most part, bills affecting animals are referred to three committees:

  • Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resources
  • Courts of Justice
  • Appropriations

The Senate

There are 40 Senators, each elected in the odd-numbered years for a four-year term. Each Senator represents approximately 192,000 citizens.

The Lieutenant Governor is President of the Senate and has no vote except to break a tie. During each session after the Senate election, members are assigned to standing committees for a term of four years. The Clerk of the Senate refers bills and resolutions to the committees.

There are 11 standing committees and approximately 15 senators on each committee. For the most part, bills affecting animals are referred to three committees:

  • Agriculture, Conservation, and Natural Resources
  • Courts of Justice
  • Finance

Division of Legislative Services

The Division was created in 1973 to provide general staff services to the General Assembly. The staff is almost entirely made up of attorneys who draft the legislation requested by the legislators. They also staff standing committees and legislative study commissions, providing necessary legal and research assistance.

The Governor

The Governor of Virginia serves a single four-year term. The Governor acts upon legislation passed by both Houses. He or she may sign a bill into law, make suggested amendments, or veto it. The General Assembly reconvenes on the sixth Wednesday after the session adjourns to consider the Governor’s actions, referred to as either the “reconvened session” or the “veto session.”