Your browser does not support JavaScript The General Assembly is in a “Long” Session- but What Does That Actually Mean? - Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy - Christopher Newport University The General Assembly is in a “Long” Session- but What Does That Actually Mean?
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Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy

Wason Center

January 31, 2018

The General Assembly is in a “Long” Session- but What Does That Actually Mean?

Issue / State

Virginia capitol building

Virginia has a biennial budget process, which means the state adopts a new budget every two years. Negotiations over the budget gave begun in the General Assembly, as legislators have 60 days during this long session to debate and pass the 2018-2020 biennial state budget.

Creating the budget is a complex process that involves participation from public and state agencies, the legislature, and the Governor’s administration. The budget process consists of five distinct phases:

Agency budget phase. After analyzing department efficiency, constituent satisfaction, and program needs, state agencies will prepare and submit their funding requests to the Department of Planning and Budgeting (DPB). These proposals are typically submitted to the DPB in the early fall.

Budget development phase. The DPB analyzes agency budget requests to confirm costs, verify service needs, and identify policy issues for the Governor’s consideration. Once this is done, the Governor and their Cabinet Secretaries collaborate to prepare a budget proposal that reflects the DPB’s analysis and the administration’s priorities. Then, the Governor submits their proposal to the General Assembly in the form of a bill on or before December 20. Within the Budget Bill are the listings of the budget appropriations at a line-item level. Around the same time, the Governor distributes a Budget Document which lists his proposals in a more understandable form.

Legislative action phase. Each year, the General Assembly convenes on the second Wednesday of January. At this time, the Governor’s proposed budget is submitted to the General Assembly for review. In the House of Delegates, the bill is referred to the House Appropriations Committee. In the Senate, the Senate Finance Committee reviews that Budget Bill. During this review process, any amendments added to the bill by the committees are brought the floor of each house where they are debated and voted on. Before the General Assembly adjourns, a conference committee resolves any differences between the versions passed by the two houses. Once this is completed, the bill is sent to the Governor for their signature.

Governor’s review phase. The Governor reviews the bill passed by the General Assembly. At this time, the Governor may sign it, veto the entire bill or certain items, or recommend amendments. If the Governor vetoes the bill, vetoes any specific provisions, or recommends any new amendments, the bill returns to the General Assembly for further consideration and action.

Budget execution phase. The budget is passed by the General Assembly, enacted into law, and goes into effect on July 1.

Virginia’s state government budget is divided into two parts, an operating budget, and a capital budget. The operating budget consists of expenses to run the daily activities of the government. The capital budget includes the costs of building, improving, or repairing government facilities. Looking at the total budget for the 2016-2018 biennium, education, health and human resources, and transportation rank as the top three spending sources.

Virginia legislators have already filed more than 600 budget requests, totaling approximately $1.3 billion each year of the budget, says House Appropriations Chairman Chris Jones.

Several southwest Virginia lawmakers have submitted budget requests for increased funding to Virginia Tech, Radford, Virginia Military Institute, and UVa-Wise for various school-improvement related projects.

Lawmakers have also introduced a number of budget proposals related to I-81, seeking funds to safety and congestion improvement along the interstate. Dedicated funding for Metro has also made its way into the budget proposal.

At a public hearing in Loudon County, VA, hosted by Delegates Richard Anderson (R-51st) and Mark Sickles (D-43rd) as well as State Senators Janet Howell (D-32nd) and George Barker (D-39th), healthcare emerged as a prominent concern for constituents. Individuals who spoke at the forum advocated for Medicaid expansion, increasing the number of waivers provided for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and raising the state’s minimum wage to better support healthcare workers.

While Medicaid expansion appears to be a priority for state Democrats, their efforts to expand Medicaid within the budget got off to a rough start as the Senate Education and Health Committee voted against a package of Medicaid-related bills on a party-line vote. The committee chairman, Sen. Stephen Newman, stated that “this is only round one” of discussions and that continued talks about Medicaid are still to come.

As committee hearings and debates continue, Virginians will be able to get a better sense of what will be included in the 2018-2020 biennium.

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