Completing the General Assembly Puzzle: A Beginner’s Guide to the House and Senate Committees

The Virginia General Assembly is crazy complicated. As a newbie to Virginia politics, I had a sneaking suspicion that there were other Virginians who wouldn’t mind me explaining the puzzle that is the committee system. Some of the committees are identical in both the House of Delegates and the Senate. Some are not! Just like Sid helped Elle Woods in Legally Blonde 2, I’m going to help you bone up on this section of Virginia politics. You’re welcome ?

  1. House Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resources Committee & Senate Agriculture, Conservation, and Natural Resources Committee

This committee handles legislation that deals with animals, the environment, and outdoor activities such as hunting and fishing. Legislation dealing with meat for consumption also lands in this committee.

2. House Appropriations Committee & Senate Finance Committee

This one is simple, they handle all bills dealing with money! Any outgoing expenditures, budget recommendations, or funding requests are handled in this committee.

3. House and Senate Commerce and Labor Committees

This committee deals with bills relating to buying goods, selling goods, and the Virginia workforce including employer/employee relations. These bills can be extremely broad ranging from health insurance coverage to workers’ compensation. Pay attention to this committee for paid family and medical leave and the $15 an hour minimum wage bills

4. House Counties, Cities and Towns Committee & Senate Local Government Committee

This committee deals with legislation that contradicts, supersedes, or changes legislation on the municipal level. Look here for local control issues such as removing Confederate statues.

5. House and Senate Courts of Justice Committees

Anything dealing with criminal and civil law in Virginia will fall into this committee. They handle updates to the legal code and changes to the system such as cash bail reform

6.House Education Committee

The House Education committee deals with all bills that involve curriculum, school regulations, state education programs, and the Virginia Department of Education. Any funding bills would go to the Appropriations Committee. 

7. Senate Education and Health Committee

This Senate Committee handles the same as the House Education Committee, in addition to any bill related to healthcare such as reproductive rights and maternal mortality. 

8. House Finance Committee

Where the House Appropriations Committee handles the budget, the House Finance Committee handles bills around tax breaks in Virginia. Confusing, right? Keep an eye here for bills on the Earned Income Tax Credit.

9. House General Laws Committee

This committee is a catchall for bills that do not fall into any of the other categories. We will be watching this committee for laws prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ Virginians in 2020.

10. Senate General Laws and Technology Committee

The Senate counterpart of the General Laws Committee includes legislation on technology such as computerized gambling.

11. House Health, Welfare, and Institutions Committee 

Similar to the Senate Committee on Education and Health, this House committee mostly focuses on medical institutions and procedures. 

12. Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee

This committee handles bills related to the rehabilitation systems in Virginia such as the parole system, the juvenile justice system, and other social services.

13. House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee

Bills dealing with state police matters are handled by this committee. Follow this committee for bills about gun violence prevention.

14.House and Senate Privileges and Elections Committees

Automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration, and no-excuse absentee voting will all go these committees. They handle bills around voting, elections, and campaigns in Virginia.

15.House and Senate Rules Committee

These committees are in place to recognize different achievements in the state. It also handles appointments to different councils and commissions in the state such as the Virginia Conflict of Interest and Ethics Advisory Council and the Virginia Code Commission. In the past, this committee was used by conservatives to kill any legislation they didn’t want to reach committee. We do not know how the Rules Committee will be used going forward. 

16. House Science and Technology Committee

This House Committee handles bills around breaking technology such as online protections for minors, Virginia’s IT Agency, and training for state employees. It behaves similarly to the Senate General Laws and Technology Committee.

17. House and Senate Transportation Committee

Roadways, speed limits, and driving rules are all handled by this committee. Keep an eye here for bills on driver’s licenses for immigrants.