The Making of Virginia’s Laws: Virginia’s General Assembly
If you have followed this weekly blog from the beginning, you will remember the first blog post. It was back in July of last year, and it discussed the newest laws that went into effect across the Commonwealth. Those laws were voted on and passed by the General Assembly and then signed into law by Governor McAuliffe.
The General Assembly is back at it, making more laws that will go into effect this coming July (although some might go into effect right away). Since its daily activities are in the news, it seemed like a good time to review what the General Assembly is, what it does in comparison to the rest of the Commonwealth’s government, and what we can expectmoving forward.
What is the General Assembly?
On January 11 of this year, the General Assembly convened to begin its work for this calendar year. Since then and until February 25, it will make decisions on current and proposed laws that will affect all Virginia residents.
In Virginia, the General Assembly makes up the legislative branch of government. This is comparable to the United States Congress in the federal government. We, the citizens of Virginia, vote our Delegates and our state Senators into office, and they make the laws that govern us.
The state government is modeled off of the federal government’s structure, all the way to the bicameral legislative branch. It consists of the 100-member House of Delegates and the 40-member Senate. Its four main purposes are to:
- Enact laws
- Approve the state budget
- Confirm the governor’s appointments
- Elect judges and other public officials
Many of the laws that the General Assembly enacts are voted on during the annual January-February session and implemented the following July 1. This means that the current round of legislative activity will be felt this coming summer.
While hundreds of bills have already died in the Assembly, some are still alive. During the first half of this current General Assembly session, each legislative body – the House of Delegates and the Senate – have worked on creating its own bills. Tuesday, February 7, was “Crossover Day,” the last day that each house could work on passing its own legislation.
Once Crossover Day goes by, each legislative body must take up the bills passed by the other. If both houses are able to pass the same bill, it goes to the Governor. If the Governor signs it, it becomes a law.
Some of the surviving bills (for now) include fines for driving too slow in the left lane, hunters being able to wear pink as well as orange, limits on school suspensions, and more. There are also much larger issues being addressed like mental health, criminal justice reform, and college campus assault.
Each day, the media covers what is done during the General Assembly session and continues to be the best source for what our representatives are doing on our behalf. Of course, the big day for news is probably going to be July 1, 2017. That is when most of its work right now will go into effect.
When that occurs, the new laws will be added to the Code of Virginia. In the meantime, if you are charged with breaking an already existing law, you need a lawyer. Call or e-mail today for a free consultation!
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