General Assembly

Virginia House of Delegates

 

This process has many moving parts. If you have questions reach out to us!

Call: (804) 698-1068 or email:
info@delegateadams.com

How Bills Become Law in the House of Delegates

The legislative process can seem overwhelming with a lot of moving parts.

We've made understanding this process simple!

It all begins with an idea...

The idea turns into a written proposal which is sent by the Delegate
to the Division of Legislative Services.

  • The Division of Legislative Services (DLS) ensures the proposal is constitutional and drafts the bill.

  • The Delegate works with DLS to make any addendums and/or corrections before signing the proposal and filing it with the Clerk of the House.

  • Once filed, the Clerk of the House assigns the bill a number in the order in which it was received and presents it to the Speaker of the House.

  • The Delegate who filed the bill is known as the Chief Patron.

This is where things get interesting...

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Committee #2

Committee #1

Committee #3

The Speaker of the House looks at all of the bills and determines which committee will review the bill. The bill is referred to the committee the Speaker chooses.

Fun Facts:

  • There are 14 standing committees in the House of Delegates.

  • The Chair of each committee is designated by the Speaker of the House.

  • The Speaker of the House is not required to refer a bill to committee - this will kill the bill.

  • The Speaker of the House is also not required to refer a bill to a committee that might be appropriate to that particular bill.

  • Click to learn more about Committees.

Committee #1

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Subcommittee #1

Subcommittee #2

The Chair of the Committee determines to which subcommittee to send the bill in order to begin the vetting process.

Fun Facts:

  • The Chair of the Committee determines which members are assigned to a subcommittee.

  • Not every member will serve on a subcommittee.

  • The Chair is not required to assign Delegates to subcommittees.

  • Some Delegates will only serve on the standing committee and not on any subcommittee.

  • All standing committees are open to the public.

  • In the standing committees, all votes are recorded AND the meetings themselves are recorded and archived on the General Assembly website.

Now that our bill is assigned to a subcommittee,

let's look at the voting process.

Subcommittee #1

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After the Chief Patron speaks to the bill, any supporting testimony is heard including public comment (if the chair allows), and a time for questions, the subcommittee does not vote on the bill but rather votes on the motion to determine the movement of the bill. So when you look at voting records in subcommittees, look to see what motion they voted on. This will best explain why a Delegate voted Y or N. The bill will only move forward to the standing committee if the majority votes to "report" the bill.

MOTIONS TO RECOMMEND:

  • Reporting* = moves the bill forward to be voted on in the standing committee.

    • *with amendment or substitute = sometimes bills are reported with a change to the original drafted language. The clerk's office keeps track of all changes.

  • Referring to another committee = moves the bill to a more appropriate committee to vet the bill. When this happens, the process starts over for the bill and chair of that standing committee determines if the bill will move to a subcommittee to be heard.

  • Continue to next year = the subcommittee would like to see this bill come back next year with modifications. This kills the bill for the current year.

  • Laying on the Table = the subcommittee's "nice" way of killing the bill without saying they really dislike the bill.

  • Pass by indefinitely (PBI) = the subcommittee is killing this bill.

 

Fun Facts:

  • The Chair of the subcommittee decides if the bill will be added to the docket to be heard. If the bill is not added to the docket, it will not be heard. This will kill the bill.

  • All subcommittee meetings are open to the public!

  • In the 2018 Session, the House of Delegates voted on rules requiring all subcommittee votes be recorded. This added another layer of transparency for citizens to know how their representatives handled legislation.

  • The 2018 Session rules failed to require the subcommittees be video recorded and archived on the General Assembly website due to administrative and equipment cost as there are 2 to 3 times more subcommittees than standing committees.

Most bills are killed in subcommittee.

If the bill was reported to the standing committee, more Delegates get to determine if the bill moves forward.

Committee #1

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Chief Patron

The vetting process happens again but at a larger scale in the standing committee. Every member of the standing committee gets to hear the Chief Patron of the bill and any supporting testimony speak to the bill.

 

Some chairs of committees allow for public comment and this can happen in a variety of ways - it's up to their discretion. Sometimes the Chief Patron isn't available to speak to the bill because of scheduling conflicts, in which case a member of the standing committee will speak on his or her behalf and report how the subcommittee voted.

 

Once again, the standing committee doesn't vote on the bill, they vote on the motion to move the bill to the House floor.

 

Once it's moved to the floor, all 100 Delegates will get to vote on the bill. So when you look at voting records in subcommittees, look to see what motion they voted on. This will best explain why a Delegate voted Y or N. The bill will only move forward to standing committee if the majority votes to report the bill.

Fun Facts:

  • The Chair of the standing committee decides if the bill will be added to the docket to be heard. If the bill is not added to the docket, it will not be heard. This will kill the bill.

  • All committee meetings are open to the public AND video recorded and archived on the General Assembly website.

Congratulations!

Your bill wasn't killed and was reported...

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now it's sent to the House floor
and printed in the House Calendar...

The House Calendar is separates bills into two sections:

Uncontested Calendar - voted en block

The bills that went through subcommittee and standing committee unanimously are placed in the uncontested calendar. These bills have been vetted without issue and the Delegates will vote once for ALL of the bills in the block.

Delegates can request to move a bill from the uncontested to the regular calendar in order to abstain or vote no if they choose.

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Regular Calendar - voted one-by-one
The bills that were reported with any divide in the votes are placed on the regular calendar. This allows the Delegates to vote on each bill individually. 

and read three times by the House of Delegates...

FIRST READ

The bills are laid on the House Clerks' desk and printed in the House Calendar. The bills are printed together in the order on which they'll be voted and listed either in the Uncontested calendar or the Regular calendar.

When a bill is printed in the calendar under the First Reading, it signals the Delegates a vote will be coming down the pike. They can decide to request to move the bill from the uncontested to the regular calendar if need be.

SECOND READ

The next day of session, the bills are printed in the calendar again in their respective places (uncontested or regular) under the Second Reading section.

 

During session, the Delegates are given the opportunity to hear from the Chief Patron of the bill to speak to the bill and what it's about. The other Delegates can ask questions, speak to the bill, and even move to re-refer the bill back to a committee (which delays the vote and may kill the bill). 

 

If all goes well, the Chief Patron of the bill will then request the House move to engross* the bill into the third reading. The Delegates vote by voice to move the bill to the third and final reading. If the Speaker of the House can't determine the voice vote, they may raise their hands to be counted or use the voting panel to lock in their vote.

If there is a tie or the majority of Delegates don't move the bill to the third reading, the bill is killed.

*To engross a bill means to prepare the final version with any changes made including amendments adopted and addition of co-sponsors.

THIRD READ

This is the end of the road for the bill in the House... for now.

 

The bill's been vetted, debated, and now the Delegates will vote in support (Y) or opposition (N) of the bill.

The only way the bill can pass is if there is a majority vote.
If there is a tie in the House, the bill fails to pass.

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Your Bill has passed!
But wait, there's more! Now it goes to the Senate...

CROSSOVER

Midway through the General Assembly session, the House moves the bills that passed by the crossover deadline to the Senate. At the same time, the Senate moves the bills they passed over to the House. This is known as crossover.

If the bill didn't pass the House or Senate before crossover, it is killed and will not have an opportunity to push through that year unless the Governor requests.

The process begins again in the Senate.

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Crossover makes the process go a little faster:

  • The bill is assigned to a committee by the Senate President.
     

  • FIRST READ - The bill is heard in the committee and members vote on the motion to report it to the floor for a vote.
    This is considered the first reading.

     

  • SECOND READ - The bill is printed in the calendar as Uncontested or Regular, just as before. 
     

  • THIRD READ - The next day of session, the Senate votes on the bill. The bill will only pass with a majority vote. If there is a tie, the Senate President (the Lt. Governor) may break the ti

What if there are amendments to the bill?

  • If an amendment was made to the bill as it moved in the Senate, and the bill passed, the bill is then sent back to the House to adopt the amendments.

  • If the House adopts the amendments, the bill is sent to the Governor's desk.

  • If the House rejects the amendments, the Speaker and the Senate President will assign conferees to hold a conference to work out the difference and find a compromise.

    • After the conference, if the bill is sent back to the House and the amendments rejected again, the bill fails to pass.

    • If the bill's conferees fail to find a middle ground before the deadline of the end of session, the bill fails to pass.

  • The only exception are the Budget Bills as the Virginia Constitution mandates the legislators pass a balance budget - so they must come to an agreement, even if it requires a Special Session.

If the Bill passes the Senate,
it goes to the Governor's desk for review.

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Governor

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The Governor has options on what to do with the Bill:

  • SIGN THE BILL - Signing the bill makes it become law effective July 1 of that year, unless the Governor decides to make it effective earlier.
     

  • VETO THE BILL - If the Governor exercises his right to veto the bill, the Bill is sent back to the House and Senate. (Don't worry, if this happens, the Bill is not dead yet!)
     

  • RECOMMENDATIONS - The Governor can send the bill back with recommendations to be reviewed and adopted by the house of origin.
     

  • NOT SIGN THE BILL - If the Governor does not sign the bill, it still becomes law, it just becomes law without his signature.

The General Assembly has the last word...

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(sort of)

The General Assembly meets one last time for a Reconvene Session or "Veto Session" to vote on adopting the recommendations and override any vetoes at the request of the Chief Patron(s).

  • RECOMMENDATIONS - 
    The recommendations may be accepted or rejected by the house of origin.

    • If rejected, the bill goes back to the Governor who can sign it as is, not sign it, or veto the bill.

    • If the Governor signs or does not sign the bill, it becomes law.

    • If the Governor vetoes the returned bill, it's dead. The house of origin does not get a second chance to override.
       

  • VETOES -
    Both houses (Senate and House) must have a two-thirds vote to override a Governor's veto. Unless both House and Senate have a strong majority, overriding a veto is unlikely. If they do override the veto, the bill becomes law.

    If they do not override the veto, the bill is killed.

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As you can see, it takes a lot of time and effort
for an idea to transform into a bill and a bill to become law.

OFFICE ADDRESS

 

Delegate Dawn M. Adams:

Pocohantas Building

900 E. Main Street, Room E426

Richmond, VA 23219

​Office: 804-698-1068

DelDAdams@house.virginia.gov

MAILING ADDRESS

Adams for Delegate:

PO Box 25331

Richmond, VA 23260​

844-384-5922

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