Passed bills are now before the Governor – now what?

April 1, 2020

The 2020 legislation session saw 2,830 bills and resolutions introduced.  Of these, 1,291 passed both the House of Delegates and Senate and are currently on the Governor’s desk awaiting action.

So, what now?

Pursuant to Article V, Section 6 of the Constitution of Virginia, when presented with a bill, the Governor has three options.

First, the Governor may sign the bill if he approves of it, and the bill shall become law. Similarly, if the Governor does not take any action on the bill within its constitutionally required timeline (seven days if there are seven or more days remaining in the session; 30 days if there are less than seven days remaining in the session), the bill shall become law without his signature.

Second, the Governor may recommend amendments to the bill and return it to the chamber in which the bill originated. From here, there are several possible paths which the bill can take. If both the House and Senate agree to the Governor’s entire recommendation by a simple majority vote, the bill shall become law. If both the House and Senate agree by a two-thirds vote to the original bill that was sent to the Governor’s desk (thus rejecting all of the amendments), the original bill shall become law. If the Governor has offered several amendments, each chamber may act on the amendments either en bloc (in total) or individually. If one chamber agrees to one or more of the amendments, the bill and recommended amendments are sent to the other chamber for consideration. If either chamber fails to agree to the Governor’s full recommendation or fails to agree to at least one of the Governor’s amendments, the bill will return to the Governor in its originally passed form for action. If, on the other hand, both houses agree to some of the recommended amendments (but not all), the bill will be resent to the Governor with the agreed-upon amendments.

Third, the Governor may veto the bill and return the bill with his objections to the chamber in which the bill originated. There, the chamber may override the Governor’s veto by a two-thirds vote of the members present. If the chamber successfully overrides the Governor’s veto, the bill will travel back to the other side of the Capitol building for consideration by the other chamber, who also have to override the veto with a two-thirds vote. If both chambers successfully override the veto, the bill will become law without the Governor’s signature. If either chamber fails to override the veto, however, the veto will be sustained and the bill shall not become law.

Currently, the Governor has until 11:59pm on April 11, 2020 to act on (sign, amend, or veto) the bills that the General Assembly has sent him. Next, both the Senate and House of Delegates are scheduled to reconvene on April 22, 2020 to appropriately deal with any possible amendments or vetoes that they have been presented.  However, at this time it is unclear exactly how the General Assembly will act considering the problems posed by COVID-19 and the resulting statewide policies that have been implemented.  The Governor, Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn, and Attorney General Mark Herring have been in discussions about how the General Assembly will be able to conduct this important work.

So far, according to recent article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Governor has reviewed and acted on 530 bills, leaving 760 bills to go.  The Governor’s office has switched to virtual bill review and signing as the Government, as well as the rest of the state, has adopted work from home policies. 

VACo Contact: Chris McDonald, Esq.

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