Government Relations Insights

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What are the unique features of Virginia’s state government?

One term Governor.  Virginia is the only state with a one term Governor. This substantially limits his influence. However, he does have line item veto and amendment authority.

Off-off year elections.  Virginia’s gubernatorial election is always one year after the Presidential election when no influential federal elections are taking place. This insulates the state from national political trends.

Budget quirk.  When a Governor first comes into office, she initially operates under her predecessor’s budget. The Governor doesn’t introduce her own budget until her second year in office. Practically speaking, this is the only budget that she will have full control over.

Strong legislature.  A weak Governor equals a strong legislature. There are no legislative term limits in Virginia, and many legislators have served under three or four different Governors. They sometimes regard Governors, their staff, and cabinet secretaries as temporary nuisances.

Short sessions.  The General Assembly meets every year, alternating between a 60 and a 45 day session. It is unusual for these time limits to be extended, and sometimes they even adjourn early.

2,000 bills.  In recent years, legislators have introduced roughly 2,000 pieces of legislation per session. This is a lot of bills to consider in 60 -- much less 45 -- days. One result is that complicated or controversial bills tend to fail the first go round.

Rocket dockets.  Due to a quick “Crossover” (the deadline for the House or Senate to consider its own bills), a bill may only get two shots at a committee hearing. This creates a lot of pressure to compromise so that the bill doesn’t stall in committee.

No warm up.  Because of pre-filing, bills are heard as soon as the General Assembly convenes in mid-January.

Part timers.  Short sessions allow legislators to be part time legislators and, for the most part, they have other jobs. Salaries are kept low for the same reason. Delegates, who represent 80,000 citizens, receive a salary of $17,640. Senators, who represent 200,000 citizens, receive a salary of $18,000.

Legislative staff.  Legislators generally have one legislative assistant. Many are comfortable with policy issues, but others have a purely administrative function.

Kill Subs.  Subcommittee votes are not recorded, and many bills die a quick death in these meetings. In the House, some committee chairmen have a “kill sub” whose sole function is to defeat every bill assigned to it.

Uncontested Calendar.  Visitors to committee meetings and floor sessions are always struck by the large number of uncontested bills. This results from many factors, mainly one party control, but also from a quick calendar and the desire to avoid unpopular votes. Heated debates and close votes are rare.