Senate of Virginia

Coordinates: 37°32′20.3″N 77°26′1.7″W / 37.538972°N 77.433806°W / 37.538972; -77.433806

Senate of Virginia
Virginia General Assembly
Coat of arms or logo
Term limits
New session started
January 13, 2016
Ralph Northam (D)
Since January 11, 2014
Steve Newman (R)
Since January 13, 2016
Majority Leader
Tommy Norment (R)
Since June 12, 2014
Minority Leader
Dick Saslaw (D)
Since June 12, 2014
Seats 40
Political groups

Governing party


Length of term
4 years
Authority Article IV, Virginia Constitution
Salary $18,000/year + per diem
Last election
November 3, 2015
(40 seats)
Next election
November 5, 2019
(40 seats)
Redistricting Legislative Control
Meeting place
State Senate Chamber
Virginia State Capitol
Richmond, Virginia
Senate of Virginia

The Senate of Virginia is the upper house of the Virginia General Assembly. The Senate is composed of 40 Senators representing an equal number of single-member constituent districts. The Senate is presided over by the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. Prior to the American War of Independence, the upper house of the General Assembly was represented by the Virginia Governor's Council, consisting of up to 12 executive counselors appointed by the Colonial Royal Governor as advisers and jurists.

The Lieutenant Governor presides daily over the Virginia Senate. In the Lieutenant Governor's absence, the President pro Tempore presides, usually a powerful member of the majority party. The Senate is equal with the House of Delegates, the lower chamber of the legislature, except that taxation bills must originate in the House, similar to the federal U.S. Congress. Members of the Virginia Senate are elected every four years by the voters of the 40 senatorial districts on the Tuesday succeeding the first Monday in November. The last election took place in November 2015. There are no term limits for Senators.

In the 2007 Virginia state elections, the Democratic Party reclaimed the majority in the Senate for the first time since 1995, when the Republican Party gained a 20–20 split. The Republicans took control of the Senate for the first time in history after a January 1998 special election. The 2011 elections resulted in a 20–20 split between the parties, but as the tie breaker was Republican Lt. Governor Bill Bolling, the Republicans effectively regained control.[1]

After the 2013 elections, Democratic State Senator Ralph Northam became the Lt. Governor, but the Democrats did not regain control of the chamber until January 28, 2014, following a series of special elections including that of Northam's vacated 6th district seat. The Democratic majority would prove short-lived, however, as Senator Phil Puckett (D-38th) resigned, effective June 8, handing the GOP a majority of 20 to 19. The Republicans solidified their majority following a Special Election win on August 19, 2014, which increased their total number of seats to 21.[2]

Historic Partisan Makeup of the Senate of Virginia


The Senate of Virginia was created by the 1776 Constitution of Virginia, and originally consisted of twenty-four members.[3] Along with the House of Delegates, the Senate comprised a new bicameral legislature designed to replace the colonial Virginia House of Burgesses, which formally dissolved on the sixth of May, 1776.[4]

Pursuant to the original Virginia Constitution, the Senate was only permitted to file amendments, while the House of Delegates had the power to propose bills. Accordingly, the Senate had far less power than the House, until the revised Virginia constitution of 1851 allowed the Senate to propose new laws.[5]

Salary and qualifications

The annual salary for senators is $18,000 per year.[6] To qualify for office, senators must be at least 21 years of age at the time of the election, residents of the district they represent, and qualified to vote for General Assembly legislators. The regular session of the General Assembly is 60 days long during even numbered years and 30 days long during odd numbered years, unless extended by a two-thirds vote of both houses.[7]


Historical composition

Affiliation Party
(Shading indicates majority caucus)
Democratic Republican Vacant
1900-1904 38 2 40 0
1904-1916 35 5 40 0
1916-1920 36 4 40 0
1920-1924 34 6 40 0
1924-1928 39 1 40 0
1928-1944 38 2 40 0
1944-1948 37 3 40 0
1948-1952 38 2 40 0
1952-1960 37 3 40 0
1960-1964 38 2 40 0
1964-1968 37 3 40 0
1968-1970 34 6 40 0
1970-1974 33 7 40 0
1974-1976 34 6 40 0
1976-1978 35 5 40 0
1978-1980 34 6 40 0
1980-1984 31 9 40 0
1984-1988 32 8 40 0
1988-1992 30 10 40 0
1992-1996 22 18 40 0
1996-2000 20 20 40 0
2000-2004 19 21 40 0
2004-2008 17 23 40 0
2008-2012 22 18 40 0
Begin 2012 20 20 40 0
End 2015 19 21 40 0

Current session

Affiliation Party
(Shading indicates majority caucus)
Democratic Republican Vacant
Begin 2016-2020 Session 19 21 40 0
April 4, 2016[c 1] 18 39 1
Latest voting share 46.2% 53.8%
  1. Democrat John Miller (District 1) died.


Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam
President pro Tempore Stephen Newman (SD23)
Majority Leader Thomas Norment, Jr. (SD03)
Minority Leader Richard Saslaw (SD35)

Committee chairs and ranking members

The Senate of Virginia has 10 Standing Committees and a Committee on Rules.[8]

Committee Chair Ranking Minority Member
Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Richard Stuart A. Donald McEachin
Commerce and Labor Frank Wagner Richard Saslaw
Courts of Justice Mark Obenshain Richard Saslaw
Education and Health Stephen Newman Richard Saslaw
Finance Thomas Norment, Jr. & Emmett Hanger (Co-Chair) Janet Howell
General Laws and Technology Frank Ruff Mamie Locke
Local Government William Stanley, Jr. David W. Marsden
Privileges and Elections Jill Holtzman Vogel Janet Howell
Rehabilitation and Social Services Bryce Reeves Mamie Locke
Rules Ryan McDougle Richard Saslaw
Transportation Charles William Carrico, Sr. Creigh Deeds


District Name Party Areas Represented First Election
Counties Cities
1 T. Monty Mason Democratic James City (part), York (part) Hampton (part), Newport News (part), Suffolk (part), Williamsburg 2016
2 Mamie Locke Democratic York (part) Hampton (part), Newport News (part), Portsmouth (part), Suffolk (part) 2003
3 Tommy Norment Republican Gloucester, Isle of Wight (part), James City (part), King William, King and Queen, New Kent, Surry (part), York (part) Hampton (part), Poquoson, Suffolk (part) 1991
4 Ryan McDougle Caroline, Essex, Hanover (part), King George (part), Lancaster, Middlesex, Northumberland, Richmond, Spotsylvania (part), Westmoreland (part) 2006
5 Lionell Spruill Democratic Chesapeake (part), Norfolk (part) 2016
6 Lynwood Lewis Accomack, Mathews, Northampton Norfolk (part), Virginia Beach (part) 2014
7 Frank Wagner Republican 2001
8 William DeSteph Virginia Beach (part) 2015
9 A. Donald McEachin Democratic Charles City, Hanover (part), Henrico (part) Richmond (part) 2007
10 Glen Sturtevant Republican Chesterfield (part), Powhatan 2015
11 Amanda Chase Chesterfield (part), Amelia Colonial Heights 2015
12 Siobhan Dunnavant Hanover (part), Henrico (part) 2015
13 Richard Black Loudoun (part), Prince William (part) 2011
14 John Cosgrove Isle of Wight (part), Southampton (part) Chesapeake (part), Franklin (part), Portsmouth (part) Suffolk (part), Virginia Beach (part) 2013
15 Frank Ruff Brunswick (part), Campbell (part), Charlotte, Dinwiddie (part), Halifax (part), Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Nottoway, Pittsylvania (part), Prince George (part) Danville (part) 2000
16 Rosalyn Dance Democratic Chesterfield (part), Dinwiddie (part), Prince George (part) Hopewell, Petersburg, Richmond (part) 2014
17 Bryce Reeves Republican Albemarle (part), Culpeper (part), Louisa (part), Orange, Spotsylvania (part) Fredericksburg 2011
18 Louise Lucas Democratic Brunswick (part), Greensville, Isle of Wight (part), Southampton (part), Surry (part), Sussex Chesapeake (part), Emporia, Franklin (part), Portsmouth (part), Suffolk (part) 1991
19 David Suetterlein Republican Bedford (part), Carroll (part), Floyd, Franklin (part), Montgomery (part), Roanoke (part), Wythe (part) Salem 2015
20 Bill Stanley Carroll (part), Franklin (part), Halifax (part), Henry, Patrick, Pittsylvania (part), Danville (part), Galax, Martinsville 2011
21 John S. Edwards Democrat Giles, Montgomery (part), Roanoke (part) Roanoke 1995
22 Thomas Garrett, Jr. Republican Amherst, Appomattox, Buckingham, Cumberland, Fluvanna, Goochland, Louisa (part), Prince Edward Lynchburg (part) 2011
23 Steve Newman Bedford (part), Botetourt, Campbell (part), Craig, Roanoke (part) Lynchburg (part) 1995
24 Emmett Hanger Augusta, Culpeper (part), Greene, Madison, Rockingham (part) Staunton, Waynesboro 1995
25 Creigh Deeds Democratic Albemarle (part), Alleghany, Bath, Highland, Nelson, Rockbridge Buena Vista, Charlottesville, Covington, Lexington 2001
26 Mark Obenshain Republican Page, Rappahannock, Rockingham (part), Shenandoah, Warren Harrisonburg 2003
27 Jill Holtzman Vogel Clarke, Culpeper (part), Fauquier, Frederick, Loudoun (part), Stafford (part) Winchester 2007
28 Richard Stuart King George (part), Prince William (part), Spotsylvania (part), Stafford (part), Westmoreland (part) 2007
29 Jeremy McPike Democratic Prince William (part) Manassas, Manassas Park 2015
30 Adam Ebbin Arlington (part), Fairfax (part) Alexandria (part) 2011
31 Barbara Favola Arlington (part), Fairfax (part), Loudoun (part) 2011
32 Janet Howell Arlington (part), Fairfax (part) 1991
33 Jennifer Wexton Fairfax (part), Loudoun (part) 2014
34 Chap Petersen Fairfax (part) Fairfax 2007
35 Richard L. Saslaw Alexandria (part), Falls Church 1980
36 Scott Surovell Fairfax (part), Prince William (part), Stafford (part) 2015
37 Dave Marsden Fairfax (part) 2010
38 Ben Chafin Republican Bland, Buchanan, Dickenson, Montgomery (part), Pulaski, Russell, Smyth (part), Tazewell, Wise (part) Norton, Radford 2014
39 George Barker Democratic Fairfax (part), Prince William (part) Alexandria (part) 2007
40 Charles William Carrico, Sr. Republican Grayson, Lee, Scott, Smyth (part), Washington, Wise (part), Wythe (part) Bristol 2011

    Senate seal

    The Senate of Virginia has its own coat of arms designed and granted by the College of Arms in England.[9][10] The coat of arms also makes up the official seal of the Virginia Senate. It bears no resemblance to the Seal of the Commonwealth of Virginia, which is the seal of the state as a whole.

    The Coat of Arms of the London Company.

    The coat of arms adopted January 22, 1981 was designed by the College of Arms and based on the coat of arms used by the London Company, the royally-chartered English entrepreneurs who funded the European settlement of Virginia. This is not to be confused with the Seal of the London Company, for other than both devices displaying a quartered shield, there is little resemblance between them.

    The Senate's arms have a shield in the center which is divided into four sections by a red cross. In each quarter are smaller shields representing the arms of four countries (England, France, Scotland, and Ireland.) that contributed settlers to Virginia's most early waves of European immigration.[9][10]

    The four coats of arms, a small crest of a crowned female head with unbound hair representing Queen Elizabeth (the Virgin Queen who named Virginia,[11] and the dragon (part of the Elizabethan royal seal of England) represent Virginia's European heritage.[9][10]

    An ivory gavel emblazoned on the vertical arm of the red cross represents the Senate as a law making body. The cardinal and dogwood depicted are Virginia's official state bird and tree. The ribbon contains the Latin motto of the Senate, Floreat Senatus Virginiae, which means "May the Senate of Virginia flourish."[9][10]


    1. Walker, Julian (November 9, 2011). "Virginia Republicans claim victory in state Senate". The Virginian-Pilot. Retrieved 2013-01-25.
    2. Vozella, Laura (2014-06-09). "GOP controls Va. Senate, will force budget deal". The Washington Post.
    3. "Constitution of Virginia, 1776" (PDF). Retrieved January 30, 2014.
    4. "The General Assembly Adjourns (1776)". Encyclopedia of Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. Retrieved January 31, 2014.
    5. "House of Burgesses". Encyclopedia of Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. Retrieved January 31, 2014.
    6. "Virginia State Legislature" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-09-12.
    7. "Constitution of Virginia; Article IV; Section 6". Virginia Legislative Information Services. Retrieved 2 March 2016.
    8. "Legislative Committees". Legislative Information System. Virginia General Assembly. Retrieved 2016-01-14.
    9. 1 2 3 4 Official Virginia State Senate "Capitol Classroom" site. Accessed November 7, 2007.
    10. 1 2 3 4 Answers.Com: Virginia State Senate Seal; accessed November 7, 2007.
    11. The Queen named Virginia in 1584 by modifying a Native American regional "king" named "Wingina". Stewart, George (1945). Names on the Land: A Historical Account of Place-Naming in the United States. New York: Random House. p. 22.
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