How a Bill Becomes a Law

The following steps depict the normal procedure whereby a non-controversial bill becomes a law in Virginia. Bills may originate in either the House of Delegates or the Senate. These are the steps when the Bill originates in the House of Delegates:

  • The Delegate, as requested by constituents, prepares to introduce a piece of legislation. The Delegate then explains the proposal he/she has in mind to a staff attorney in the Division of Legislative Services. The staff attorney checks existing law and the constitutionality of the proposed legislation.
  • A bill is then drafted by the Division of Legislative Services. Draft copies of the bill are made and delivered to The Delegate.
  • The Delegate signs his/her name on the bill and introduces it by laying the original and duplicate copies on the desk of the Clerk of the House of Delegates.
  • The bill is ordered printed and referred to the appropriate Committee.
  • The members of the committee, in public session, familiarize themselves with the bill and decide to approve it without amendments.
  • The committee then reports the bill favorably to the House.
  • First Reading: The bill is printed in the calendar or is read by the Clerk and the bill advances to the second reading.
  • Second Reading: The next day the bill title appears in the printed calendar on the second reading. Bills are considered in the order in which they appear on the calendar. The Clerk reads the title of the bill a second time. The bill on the second reading is amendable. The bill is explained by its patron (The Delegate) who answers any questions that may be asked. By voice vote, the House votes whether to advance the bill to the third reading. A bill that has passed second reading with or without amendments is engrossed. If amendments are adopted, the bill is reprinted in its final form for passage.
  • Third Reading: The next day, the engrossed bill title appears in the House calendar on third reading. The bill is read by title a third time by the Clerk. By recorded roll call vote, the bill is passed (or rejected) by the House of Delegates.
  • Communication: When passed, the bill is sent to the Senate either by the Clerk in a communication or by a member in person, informing the Senate that the bill has passed the House and requesting the concurrence by the Senate.

If a bill originates in the Senate, it goes through substantially the same procedure as it did in the House: the bill is read by title a first time, referred to a standing committee, considered and reported by the committee, read a second time and a third time before passage by a constitutional majority.

After a bill has been passed by both houses of the General Assembly, the bill is printed as an enrolled bill and examined and signed by the presiding officer of each house.

Then the bill is sent to the Governor for approval.

After being signed by the Governor, the bill is sent to the Clerk of the House (Keeper of the Rolls of the Commonwealth) and is assigned a Chapter number. All Chapters of a session are compiled and bound as the Acts of Assembly.

Bills enacted at a regular session (or the reconvened session which follows) are effective the first day of July following adjournment of the regular session, unless another date is specified.

Bills enacted at a special session (or reconvened session) are effective the first day of the fourth month following the adjournment of the special session, unless another date is specified.

The General Appropriation Act is usually effective July first and Emergency Acts become effective when signed by the Governor.

 

Adapted from "How Bills Become Laws" (Commonwealth of Virginia)