Virginia Legislative Branch

Many of us find ourselves questioning “How exactly are laws formed in Virginia?” Many feel we have a general idea but do we really understand the process? Yet, it is critically important that all understand and are involved, after all, the laws affect each and everyone of us. 

Each year, REAL LIFE ensures to engage in policy and teach our Lifers about the political process. This year, clearly, that looked a bit different. We couldn’t visit the General Assembly, but we made sure our voices were heard, testified in front of committee, and made sure to share information about how it all works.

Samantha Sedivy, a lobbyist in Virginia, joined us during one of our meetings to explain the legislative process, how a bill becomes a law, and some important topics on the 2021 legislative session. 

We have three branches of Government both Federally and in Virginia, but for now, we will be focusing on the Legislative branch.  

The Legislative branch is written under Article IV of the Virginia Constitution. The primary goal is to make laws, and are also referred to as the “General Assembly”. It is made up of the Virginia Senate (40 members) and the Virginia House of Delegates (100 members).

FACT: Virginia General Assembly session starts every year in January on the second Wednesday. On even years sessions will last up to 60 days and on odd years up to 30 but usually get pushed out to 45 days. The goal of this session is to MAKE OUR LAWS!

How Does a Bill Become a Law?

  1. A bill is introduced by the a delegate or Senator, and they are referred to as the bill’s “sponsor”.
  2. The bill is sent to a committee and assigned a bill number. The bill can be sent to multiple committees. Senate has 11 committees and the House of Delegates has 14.
  3. The Bill is heard in committee during a hearing where people may testify for/against the bill, suggest and make amendments, and then they vote. If the majority votes “yes”, the bill moves on.
  4. “Floor Action” – The bill returns to the chamber of origins in the House or Senate (wherever the sponsoring person sits) and the bill is “read” three times before they vote after the final reading. If the bill passes with a majority vote, then it continues to move forward.
  5. Bill repeats the process in the other chamber
  6. Then the bill is considered by the Governor who may either sign the bill, return it with amendments, veto, or take no action (this usually happens when a bill automatically becomes a law). 

2021 General Assembly Session – Hot topic legislation (as presented by Samantha)

  • Pandemic Relief – makes it easier for health care providers to get vaccinated, encourage the submission of race/ethnicity for vaccine data, allow health care providers workers compensation, require public schools to allow in-person learning
  • Mandated Paid sick leave – State required to pay sick leave
  • Abolish the death penalty
  • Legalization of marijuana – Decriminalization at a state level not federally (this will not occur until 2024)
  • New foreclosure protection – An increase of 2 days notice from 14to 16 days on foreclosures
  • G3 program – “Get skilled, get a job, give back”
  • 2020-2022 budget – 5% pay raise for all teachers, local and state employees, and law enforcement, $250 Million cash revenue, and $650 Million in new spending
  • VA health reinsurance plan – reduce the cost of insurance