Virginia’s present state constitution, the state’s sixth, was adopted in 1970 and went into effect in 1971. Previous constitutions were adopted in 1776, 1830, 1851, 1869, and 1902. Proposed amendments to the constitution may be approved initially by a majority of the members of each house of the state legislature at two consecutive regular sessions. To be adopted they must then be approved by a majority of the electorate voting on them in a general election. Amendments may also be drawn up by constitutional conventions, called by a vote of two-thirds of the members of each house.
Virginia’s chief executive, the governor, is elected for a four-year term and cannot serve successive terms. The governor has extensive appointive powers and even appoints the state treasurer, an elected officer in almost every other state. The governor’s major appointments are generally subject to the approval of both houses of the state legislature. Another major power of the governor is to veto laws or individual items of appropriations measures passed by the state legislature.
The governor also has the unusual option of returning a bill to the state legislature with the assurance that the bill will be signed if certain specified amendments are made.
If the legislature refuses to adopt the proposed amendments, the governor can either approve or veto the bill. The legislature can override all gubernatorial vetoes by a vote of two-thirds of members present at the voting in each house, provided that the two-thirds majority constitutes a simple majority of the elected membership. Other elected officials are the lieutenant governor and the attorney general. Both serve four-year terms and may succeed themselves in office.
The state legislature, called the General Assembly and the oldest representative legislative body in the United States, consists of a 40-member Senate and a 100-member House of Delegates. State senators are elected for four-year terms, and delegates are elected for two-year terms. Regular sessions of the General Assembly are held every year, beginning on the second Wednesday in January; in even-numbered years sessions may last up to 60 days, and in odd-numbered years up to 30 days. In addition, special sessions of up to 30 days may be called by the governor or by petition of two-thirds of the members of each house of the General Assembly. Both regular and special sessions may be extended up to 30 days with the approval of a two-thirds vote of the membership of each house.
The highest state court in Virginia is the supreme court of appeals. The justices are elected for 12-year terms by the joint vote of the two houses of the legislature. The major trial courts are the circuit courts, whose judges are elected for eight-year terms by the General Assembly Lower courts include the general district courts and the juvenile and domestic relations district courts. The judges of these courts are elected by the General Assembly to six-year terms.
The chief governing body in most of Virginia’s 95 counties is the county board of supervisors, whose members are elected for four-year terms. Other elected county officials include a commonwealth’s attorney, sheriff, county treasurer, and commissioner of revenue, all of whom also serve four-year terms. All of the state’s cities and some of its towns have the council and manager form of municipal government. Most towns, however, have the mayor and council form of government. Towns may be reincorporated as cities by the General Assembly when their populations exceed 5,000. Virginia sends 11 members to the U.S. House of Representatives and 2 members to the U.S. Senate. The state has 13 electoral votes in presidential elections. "Virginia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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