Virginia General Assembly
|Virginia General Assembly|
House of Delegates
|Founded||July 30, 1619|
|President Pro Tem of the Senate||Chuck Colgan, (D)
Since January 28, 2014
|Speaker of the House||William J. Howell, (R)
Since January 8, 2003
|Political groups||Democratic Party
|Last election||November 5, 2013|
|Virginia State Capitol, Richmond|
The Virginia General Assembly is the legislative body of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the oldest continuous law-making body in the New World, established on July 30, 1619. The General Assembly is a bicameral body consisting of a lower house, the Virginia House of Delegates, with 100 members, and an upper house, the Senate of Virginia, with 40 members. Combined together, the General Assembly consists of 140 elected representatives from an equal number of constituent districts across the commonwealth. The House of Delegates is presided over by a Speaker of the House, while the Senate is presided over by the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. The House and Senate each elect a clerk and sergeant-at-arms. The Senate of Virginia's clerk is known as the "Clerk of the Senate" (instead of as the "Secretary of the Senate," the title used in the federal Senate).
The Republican Party currently holds the majority in the House of Delegates, and exactly 50% of the Senate (with the ability to break tie votes falling to the Democratic Lieutenant Governor).
The General Assembly meets in Virginia's capital of Richmond. When sitting in Richmond, the General Assembly holds sessions in the Virginia State Capitol, designed by Thomas Jefferson in 1788 and expanded in 1904. During the American Civil War, the building was used as the capitol of the Confederate States of America, housing the Congress of the Confederate States. The building was renovated between 2005 and 2006. Senators and Delegates have their offices in the General Assembly Building across the street directly north of the Capitol. The Governor of Virginia lives across the street directly east of the Capitol in the Virginia Executive Mansion.
The Virginia General Assembly is described as "the oldest continuous law-making body in the New World."1 Its existence dates from the establishment of the Virginia Governor's Council and the House of Burgesses at Jamestown on July 30, 1619. The General Assembly met in Jamestown from 1619 until 1699, when it moved to Williamsburg, Virginia and met in the colonial Capitol building. It became the General Assembly in 1776 with the ratification of the Virginia Constitution. The government was moved to Richmond in 1780 during the administration of Governor Thomas Jefferson.
Under the Constitution of Virginia, Senators and Delegates must be 21 years of age at the time of the election, residents of the district they represent, and qualified to vote for members of the General Assembly. Under the Constitution, "a senator or delegate who moves his residence from the district for which he is elected shall thereby vacate his office."4
The state constitution specifies that the General Assembly shall meet annually, and its regular session is a maximum of 60 days long in even-numbered years and 45 days long in odd-numbered years, unless extended by a two-thirds vote of both houses. The governor of Virginia may convene a special session of the General Assembly "when, in his opinion, the interest of the Commonwealth may require" and must convene a special session "upon the application of two-thirds of the members elected to each house."5