General Assembly Primer

General Assembly Primer

Del. Tom Rust (R-86) offers insight to General Assembly session.

Since I was elected to the General Assembly in 2001, I am often asked by friends “How are things in Richmond?” — and in the same breath, “What are you doing in Herndon?”

It is a common perception that Virginia legislators reside full-time in Richmond. In fact, crafted as a citizen legislature, the Virginia General Assembly meets each January for only 45 or 60 calendar days. My other months are spent meeting with constituents and attending committee meetings while still working as a full-time civil engineer.

The Virginia General Assembly is the oldest, continuously serving legislature in the Western Hemisphere. The concept of a citizen legislature allows me, as a civil engineer, to serve alongside my colleagues who are educators, physicians, police officers, businessmen and attorneys. This allows a diverse group of people with many perspectives to gather each year to address the concerns of their constituents, while at the same time allowing the members of the Virginia Assembly to work alongside their friends and neighbors for most of the year.

Beginning the second Wednesday of each January, the legislative process takes on a frenetic pace. On even-numbered years, such as 2006, a budget for the Commonwealth of Virginia is drafted and approved. This is the “long session,” which lasts 60 days.

The “short session” lasts 45 days and during those years, we take a look at the state of the Commonwealth and may adjust the budget with spending amendments to meet the ever-changing needs of the people who work and live in Virginia.

Learning how an idea can become a law is an interesting process. An idea is drafted as a bill. Legislation is introduced at the start of the Session and the bill is assigned a bill number. You can watch the progress of these bills at

The Speaker of the House of Delegates assigns each bill to one of the 14 legislative committees for review. I serve on the Education Committee, the Transportation Committee and the Science and Technology Committee. The members of the committees review, discuss and listen to public testimony on the bills. If a bill passes through the subcommittee and the committee, it goes to the full House of Delegates for further review and debate. After a recorded vote, the bill will go on to the Senate for vote. If approved, it will go to the governor for his signature.

You can track one of my bills at the Web site listed above.

If you have questions about the legislative process or about any of my legislation, please call me at 703-437-9400. You can also write to or mail your questions to me at 730 Elden St., Herndon, VA 20170, where I maintain a year round office.