Of groundhogs and Crossover Day

Published 9:02 pm Tuesday, February 8, 2011

By Senator Fred Quayle

On the same day a groundhog in Pennsylvania predicted an early spring, the temperature outside Virginia’s Capitol reached a very unseasonable 67 degrees. Reality returned the following day when the high temperature returned to the very seasonable low forties.

Inside the Capitol, daily floor sessions got longer as legislators worked toward the halfway point of session. The first major deadline of this year’s session occurred yesterday, known as Crossover Day, when the Senate has to finish its work on bills filed by senators and the House has to finish its work on bills filed by delegates. After that day, the Senate begins to consider bills approved by the House and the House begins to consider bills approved by the Senate.

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Deadlines like these make it possible for the General Assembly to consider the more than 2,000 pieces of legislation filed by legislators this year alone. While it may seem to be an astounding task, the committee system and the deadlines provide a winnowing process that ensures multiple checks on legislative action.

Budget preparation

With Crossover on the way, much of the attention returned to proposed changes to Virginia’s biennial budget. Governor Bob McDonnell previewed his proposed amendments to the 2010-2012 budget back in December. That announcement was the first step in a four-stage process. We are now about to enter the second stage.

During the past week, the Senate and House debated and approved their respective versions of amendments to the commonwealth’s budget. The legislative bodies passed versions of the budget that differed on several key points — from the governor’s proposal and from each other’s.

After both chambers approve their respective packages of amendments to the budget, the process will move into its third stage: negotiations. Representatives from the Senate Finance and House Appropriations committees will work out the differences between their versions of amendments to the budget.

Those legislators have to reach agreement on a single version of the budget that can win approval in both the Senate and the House prior to our scheduled adjournment on Feb. 26.

For the final stage of the process, the budget amendments approved by the General Assembly are sent back to the Governor. He then gets a final opportunity to suggest changes to the General Assembly’s plan. Legislators vote on his recommendations during the one-day Reconvened Session on April 6.

If you’ve been keeping count, you know the process creates five different versions of the budget before the sixth and final one is signed into effect by the Governor, sometime after April 6.

Virginia’s budget process is very thorough.


Getting ready for Crossover, some of my bills had made it to the Senate floor, and others appeared likely to win approval before the Tuesday deadline. This week, the Senate approved my bill, SB 1145, which extends the limitations period for actions for sexual abuse committed during the infancy or incapacity of the abused person from two years to 20 years. The bill passed in the Senate by a vote of 37 to 3 and will be debated in the House of Delegates in the upcoming weeks.


The building had visitors galore this week. In fact, there were several days where finding room in an elevator proved very challenging. We had visitors lobbying for their causes for the Virginia Bankers’ Association, Brain Injury Awareness, Home Healthcare Providers with the Arc of Virginia, students visiting from Tidewater Community College and folks from the NASA Langley Research Center. It was a busy and interesting week.

Location, location, location

Next week, I’ll have details about the Senate’s version of amendments to the 2010-2012 Biennial Budget, as well as a progress report on my own legislation. And as always, if you hear about an issue that you’d like to weigh in on with your opinion, please drop me an email at District13@senate.virginia.gov.

Until then, here’s hoping that the groundhog proves to be an excellent prognosticator.

Senator Fred Quayle represents part of Suffolk. He can be reached by email at District13@senate.virginia.gov.