The Virginia General Assembly convenes the second Wednesday in January every year – for a short session (usually 45 days) in odd numbered years and a regular session (60 days) in even numbered years. During each regular session the legislature crafts a biennial budget which often needs to be amended in the short session. Budget allocations typically fund core government services such as education, transportation, and public safety. In addition to budget matters, each session of the legislature considers thousands of bills. These bills arise from a variety of sources,
including localities, but must be introduced by a member of the legislature. Virginia laws, called the Code of Virginia, can only be introduced or changed through the action of the General Assembly; so too with the State budget. Virginia’s General Assembly is bicameral, meaning it has two chambers – the Senate and the House of Delegates. Bills can be introduced from either side.
Newport News City Council approves annually a package of legislative requests
to be considered by the Virginia General Assembly. Council requests may include new laws, changes to existing law, budget requests, or position statements. Position statements summarize the City’s reaction to potential legislative actions based on principles of general governance that the Council agrees are in the best interests of the locality. For example, Council agrees that local sources of revenue should not be eliminated by the State; although no such bills may be introduced in a given session, a position statement that summarizes Council’s position is useful, just in case. Because it is difficult to know every issue that might come up during a General Assembly session, position statements are an important part of the City’s legislative package. The Newport News City Council’s approved 2017 Legislative Package is available on the City's website.
After City Council approves the package, City staff work with members of the General Assembly to ask that they officially file or “patron” bills or budget amendments requested by the Council. Once a proposal has a patron, the Senator or Delegate will follow the steps needed to shepherd the bill through consideration at sub-committee, committee, and then, if successful, consideration by the full body. Bills may be amended at any time, so it is important that City staff continue throughout the process to work with the Senator or Delegate to maintain the intent of legislative requests. If a bill is passed by the originating Chamber, it then crosses-over to the other body and repeats the process. Only after approval by both the Senate and the House of Delegates does a bill go on to the Governor for signature and become law. For more information on the Virginia General Assembly visit www.virginiageneralassembly.gov