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Legislative Process

The Legislative Process in the Virginia General Assembly
by

Scott Maddrea

on 13 August 2014

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Transcript of Legislative Process

July 1st
Ideas
Introduction
Committees
Legislation is referred to committee by the Speaker of the House.

Committee referral is also a Constitutional requirement under Section 11 of Article IV

The Speaker has complete discretion over committee referrals.

Committee Referral is another one of the four constitutional requirements provided for in Section 11 of Article IV of the Virginia Constitution.
Consideration By the Senate of Virginia
How a Bill Becomes a Law
Virginia's Legislative Process
Legislators / Campaign Promises
Constituents
Governor and Executive Branch agencies
Judges / Court Decisions
Lobbyists and Special Interest Groups
Local Governments (Counties & Cities)
Federal government
Other States
Current Events
Technological Advances
Fix Mistakes

Privileges & Elections
Courts of Justice
Education
General Laws
Transportation
Finance
Appropriations
Counties, Cities & Towns (CCT)
Commerce and Labor
Health, Welfare, and Institutions (HWI)
Agriculture, Chesapeake & Natural Resources (ACNR)
Militia, Police & Public Safety (MPPS)
Science & Technology
Rules

14 Standing Committees
Only Members of the General Assembly can introduce legislation

Legislation is introduced as either a BILL or RESOLUTION
BILLS become law (see Section 11, Article IV for specific requirements)
RESOLUTIONS are not laws. Used to commend, memorialize, establish procedure or express the sense of the General Assembly; but do not require approval of the Governor

Once introduced, bills are assigned a number (for example HB 30) and ordered printed. Printing is one of the four constitutional requirements provided for in Section 11 of Article IV of the Virginia Constitution.



Total Committee Referrals
Committee Membership
Most standing committees have 22 members.

The Speaker assigns members to the committees based on a variety of factors, including:
Party Affiliation
Geography
Seniority
Philosophy
Background/Experience
Race & Gender
Other Committee Assignments

Most members serve on 2-4 committees.
The Session Calendar is approved as part of the Procedural Resolution adopted at the start of each session.
Subcommittees
The committee chairman appoints the subcommittee chairman and subcommittee members (Subcommittees do not have Vice Chairs)

Standing subcommittees must have at least five members.

Special Subcommittees can have less than five members but are limited in scope (one bill or resolution)

Proportionality is not required on subcommittees.
45 Standing Subcommittees
Most committees have 3-4
Appropriations has 8-10
Science and Technology is the only committee with none
Role of Committees
The fate of bills committed (to Committee is generally not uncertain. As a rule, a bill committed is a bill doomed. When it goes from the clerk's desk to a committee room it crosses a parliamentary bridge of sighs to dim dungeons of silence whence it will never return. The means and time of its death are unknown, but its friends never see it again."

Woodrow Wilson, 1885
Committees (and Subcommittees) serve a Screening Function
97% of bills die in Committee or Subcommittee

83% die in HOUSE Committees or Subcommittes

2014 Regular Session
2,888 Bills and Resolutions Introduced
1,647 Passed House and Senate
1, 011 Defeated
958 Died in Committee (94.7%)
48 Died on the Floor of the House or Senate
5 Vetoed by the Governor
235 Continued to 2015 Session

The Floor
If a Committee favorably recommends a bill be "reported" the bill (or resolution) goes to the full House of Delegates where it is placed on the House calendar.

Section 11 of Article IV of the Virginia Constitution requires that once a bill is added to the House Calendar it must receive three readings on three separate days. The "constitutional readings" are referred to as First Reading, Second Reading and Third Reading, respectively.

The Calendar is further divided into two categories - Contested and Uncontested.

1st Reading is Informational Only. It serves to let members know that the bill has been reported from committee. A bill automatically advances from 1st to 2nd Reading - no vote is required.

2nd Reading - Discussion, Debate, and the consideration of amendments occurs on 2nd Reading. After the debate and consideration of amendments the House will take a (voice) vote to advance the bill to 3rd Reading.


Three Readings Required

The Uncontested Calendar is used to speed up consideration of non-controversial measures. If a bill is reported from committee without any nay votes or abstentions it is placed on the Uncontested Calendar. Bills on the Uncontested Calendar are voted en bloc.

Bills with at least one nay vote or abstention (or if objected to by any member) are placed on the Regular Calendar for closer scrutiny. Bills on the Regular Calendar are voted individually.

Uncontested and Regular Calendars

When legislation is passed by both the House of Delegates and Senate but in slightly different forms, it is referred to a Conference Committee.

Conference Committees are comprised of an equal number of Delegates and Senators, typically three from each house. These six members meet, often informally, to work out an agreement acceptable to both houses. Any given year, 75-100 bills out of 2,500 bills introduced end up in a Committee of Conference.

Committee of Conference
Once a bill has been approved by both the House and Senate in identical form it goes to the Governor for review. The Virginia Constitution, Article V, Section 6 provides for Executive Review and Power of Governor to Act within 7 Days or 30 Days dependent upon the status of the Session.

The Constitution Provides the Governor with four options:
Sign the bill into law
Veto the bill (2/3 vote of both houses to override)
Recommend amendments (the amendments are then returned to the General Assembly. Both houses must agree to amendments to in order for the bill to become law; if not, bill returned to Governor to sign or veto)
No Action in which case the bill becomes law w/out the Governor’s signature

Governor’s Options on Legislation
3rd Reading - Once a bill reaches its 3rd Reading the House will take a recorded vote on Final Passage. This recorded vote is the final requirement of Section 11 of Article IV of the Virginia Constitution.
The Virginia General Assembly is
bi-cameral
which means that in order to become law, bills must be passed in identical form by both the House of Delegates and Senate of Virginia.
When a bill is sent to the Senate by the House it must repeat the legislative process spelled out in Article IV, Section 11 of the Virginia Constitution.

Printing
Committee Referral
Three Readings
Recorded Vote on Final Passage
Differences Between the House and Senate
Because the Senate is smaller (40 members), there are fewer Senate committees (11), almost no Senate subcommittees, and slightly fewer members on each standing committee.

In addition, House bills receive their 1st Reading PRIOR to being referred to committee. When bills are reported from committee they go straight to 2nd Reading which is informational. House bills are debated, amendments are considered and the final passage vote is taken on 3rd Reading.
Role of the Governor in the Legislative Process
Unless otherwise specified, the effective date on all bills is July 1st following enactment
Senators can also introduce legislation.

Since the Senate does not have a Speaker, in the Senate, bills and resolutions are referred to committee by the Clerk of the Senate in accordance with guidance provided by the Senate Rules Committee.
Senate Committees
The Senate of Virginia has 11 standing committees, instead of 14.

Senate committees are slightly smaller than House Committees (15 members instead of 22)

There are virtually no subcommittees in the Senate

In the Senate, committee memberships are approved by a vote of the full Senate based on a plan proposed by the majority party. No one person is responsible for committee assignments.

Despite the differences, Senate committes play the same "gate keeping" or screening role as House committees.
Senate Floor

Senate Bills must also receive three constitutional readings once they have been reported from committee.

Article IV, Section 11 also requires that every bill receive a recorded vote in the Senate before it is sent to the House of Delegates for consideration.
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