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Transcript of Virginia Government
1.1: Historical Context
Like the U.S. government, Virginia is guided by a constitution.
Throughout it's history, Virginia has had six constitutions.
Six?!? Isn't that a bit excessive?!? Why on earth did Virginia need six constitutions? Come on, even the U.S.A. only needed one warmup lap with that crazy Articles of Confederation mess!
Holy cow...it's even worse than you thought! This guy says Virginia had 7 constitutions!
*admittedly that's because he says the constitution of a federally governed Virginia during the Civil War counts, but that isn't recognized by the Commonwealth or most serious historians....only the most ultra-patriotic Yankee would hang that one on us. But still...Six constitutions? Why?
Virginia ranks pretty poorly in number of times for rewriting our Constitution
To study our constitutional history, we need to go to our roots....
The Atlantic coastline of North America from Newfoundland to Florida was technically property of the English Monarch by "Rights of Discovery" made by John Cabot in 1497.
This charter established the colonists as "tenants" on the land, with the Governor acting as the "landlord" on the king's behalf and with rent being settled by riches found or crops grown by the colonists.
Virginia had five different charters between 1584 and 1624 centered on a mercantile enterprise. After the collapse of the Virginia Company in 1624, the king settled on the crown colony model that became utilized by most of the later colonies.
Starting around 1500 English fisherman frequented the Grand Banks along Newfoundland, but it was almost 90 years before a serious attempt at permanent colonization in North America.
In a gradual process, colonists rose in rebellion over the next 150 years formally taking arms in 1775.
With the Declaration of Independence, each state needed to draft a new state constitution. Virginia drafted and ratified it's first constitution in 1776.
George Mason authored a "Declaration of Rights" including 16 points that were incorporated into the first article of the Virginia Constitution. This document later inspired the U.S. Bill of Rights.
First Governor of Virginia
*Ironically, Patrick Henry was honored on a stamp in 1955.
In most respects Virginia's constitution today is not very different from the first constitution. However there are significant differences, such as.....
The Governor was appointed by the senate of Virginia.
Only white landowning males could vote.
Virginia created a second constitution in 1830. This document extended suffrage to
white male renters
Surprisingly, this addition was met with quite a lot of resistance.
Most of the land west of the Allegheny mountains (modern day West Virginia) had been claimed by wealthy tidewater planters during the colonial period. Poor western farmers rented the land from these coastal planters. Expanding
suffrage to renters
diminished the political influence of the landed elite.
Western "Mountaineers" increasingly resisted control from eastern "Planters". In 1851 a 3rd Constitution was written creating universal white male suffrage and the popular election of the Governor. The political rift between east and west continued to grow...
In May 1861 several western counties voted against secession. A "restored government" of Virginia loyal to the Union voted to allow 52 counties to split off to become the new state of Kanawha or New Virginia (three other counties joined to form
in 1863). Some claim the Kanawha constitution is a 7th Virginia constitution, but this is not recognized by the commonwealth.
Richmond after the Civil War
The capital of the Confederacy was occupied by Union troops until a new Constitution was drafted in 1870. This fourth "Reconstruction" constitution or "Underwood" Constitution brought Virginia in line with the other united states.
Provisions of the reconstruction constitution:
1. Universal male suffrage for all men regardless of race or religion
2. Public schools for all citizens
3. Independent cities from counties
4. disenfranchisement (no voting rights) for former rebels who refuse an oath of allegiance
Fifth Virginia Constitution (1902) S
This constitution re-established white supremacy in Virginia through a variety of legal reforms.
Former Confederates gained control of state politics and enacted laws to disenfranchise former slaves and immigrants (in most states).
A variety of control methods were utilized...
Jim Crow laws were aimed at immigrants too
The Grandfather Clause exempted Confederate veterans and their children and grandchildren from Jim Crow restrictions.
The constitution segregated schools
But, the segregation constitution remained law until 1971.
The sixth Constitution of Virginia was ratified in 1971 (current Constitution)
This last constitution removed most of the barriers for voting from the 1902 segregation constitution. This brought Virginia in compliance with the modern federal Civil Rights Legislation of the late 1960s.
This constitution effectively ended the official state policy of...
1.2 Virginia's Legislature
The General Assembly of Virginia is the oldest continuing legislative body in the Americas.
Like the U.S. Congress, the Virginia legislature is bi-cameral
The upper house (Senate) has 40 members divided into single member districts.
Senate Districts in western Hanover County
Virginia Senators serve 4 year terms
(elections in 2011, 2015, 2019) in which all members are up for election at the same time.
The lower house is the House of Delegates which has 100 members divided into single-member districts.
Virginia House of Delegates
Delegates serve 2 year terms and are elected in odd years.
Requirements for the General Assembly:
1. U.S. Citizen
2. Resident of your district
3. 21 years of Age
A part-time job...
Virginia legislators are citizen statesman. They are paid $18,000 and have very limited sessions each winter. Legislators meet only sixty days in even years and thirty days in odd years.
By the 1960s, the Confederate racist legacy was wearing thin.
Pro and Anti-segregationists amplified the rhetoric...
Because state legislators only represent 80,000 to 200,000 people they are far more responsive to constituents than congressmen.
What does the Virginia General Assembly do?
1. Legislators must pass a budget each year
2. Legislators levy taxes to fund the budget
former Governor McDonnell with his Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton
3. The G.A. confirm Governor's appointments
4. Enact Laws
In census years (years ending in zero), the General Assembly must reapportion all of the seats for the House of Delegates, Virginia Senate and U.S. House of Representatives due to changes in population in the state.
Virginia Senate Districts 2010
House of Reps Districts 2010
Creating odd shaped districts for political advantage.
House of Delegates election results 2009
One of the worst Gerrymandered districts in the USA
(in Maryland...of course....)
Iowa Congressional districts 2008 Presidential Election
Unlike Maryland and Virginia, Iowa law prohibits counties from being subdivided for Congressional districts.
1.3 Virginia's Executive Branch
The Governor is the Chief Executive of the Commonwealth, but the task of running Virginia is far too big for one individual.
The powers of the Governor are found in Article V of the Constitution and are similar to the powers of the President of the United States.
Governor's action on laws
The legislative powers of a Governor are not very different from the President (sign bills, ignore bills, or veto them) with one major difference.
Line Item Veto
The Governor has the ability to delete parts of a bill he doesn't like and send it back with changes to the GA for passage. The Supreme Court has denied this power to the President.
The Governor prepares the budget in January and presents it to the GA in "the State of the Commonwealth address". This is probably the most important thing he does, because he has all year to prepare and then he sets the legislative agenda for the very short legislative term.
Chairman Democratic Party 2009-2011
Lt. Governor 2002-2006
U.S. Senator 2013-
Virginia Governors may not serve consecutive terms.
Because Governors' terms are limited, most Governors come from other offices (Lt. Gov, Attorney General) and move on to federal offices (U.S. Senate, Party Chairman).
Lt. Governors are much more limited in power. They preside over the state Senate, but can only vote to break a tie and assume Governor's responsibilities if and when necessary.
Attorney Generals are the lawyers for the commonwealth. They oversee more than 400 prosecutors and lawyers for the state and represent the state in constitutional cases. They also act as advisors to the Governor and GA in legal matters. Two of the last three governors were previous Attorney Generals.
Requirements for all 3 offices:
1. U.S. Citizen
2. Resident of Virginia
3. 30 years old
1963 - George Wallace - Governor of Alabama
- national voice of "Massive Resistance."
The creation of West Virginia
Republican Senator Walter Stosch retired in 2015 leaving his seat open. Siobhan Dunnavant won the vacant seat in November.
Republican sweep 2009
Democrats swept all three Virginia executive offices in 2013
Attorney General Mark Herring
Governor Terry McAuliffe
Lt. Governor Ralph Northam
The House of Burgesses took its name from the French word Bourgeoisie meaning non-aristocratic class.
Republican 12th District
The colony was settled early on by powerful and wealthy planters who subdivided huge tracts and speculated in western lands. These landholders were taxed at a particular rate by the Governor and charged rents or sold land to other farmers in their regions in a manner similar to Counts and Barons in England - hence the divisions of
in the new colony.
The Fairfax land grant
Will either party sweep in 2017? Who is running?
Democratic Candidates for Governor 2017
2017 Republican Candidates for Governor
GOP Candidates for Lt. Governor
Democratic Candidates for Lt. Governor 2017
Both major parties only have one candidate for Virginia's Attorney General.