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Virginia House of Delegates

NameVirginia House of Delegates
LegislatureVirginia General Assembly
Coa PicSeal of Virginia.svg
House TypeLower house
Term LimitsNone
New SessionJanuary 12, 2011
Structure1Virginia House Composition.png
Leader1 TypeSpeaker of the House
Leader1William Howell
Election1January 8, 2003
Leader2 TypeMajority Leader
Leader2Kirk Cox
Election2December 5, 2010
Leader4 TypeMinority Leader
Leader4Ward Armstrong
Election4February 24, 2007
Term Length2 years
AuthorityArticle IV, Virginia Constitution
Salary$17,640/year + per diem
Political Groups1  Republican Party (59)
  Democratic Party (39)
  Independent (2)
Last Election1November 3, 2009
Next Election1November 8, 2011
RedistrictingLegislative Control
Meeting PlaceHouse of Delegates Chamber
Virginia State Capitol
Richmond, Virginia

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The Virginia House of Delegates is the lower house of the Virginia General Assembly. It has 100 members elected for terms of two years; unlike most states, these elections take place during odd-numbered years. The House is presided over by the Speaker of the House, who is elected from among the House membership by the Delegates. The Speaker is almost always a member of the majority party and, as Speaker, becomes the most powerful member of the House. The House shares legislative power with the Senate of Virginia, the upper house of the Virginia General Assembly. The House of Delegates is the modern-day successor to the Virginia House of Burgesses, which first met at Jamestown in 1619. The House is divided into Democratic and Republican caucuses. In addition to the Speaker, there is a majority leader, majority caucus chair, minority leader, minority caucus chair, and the chairs of the several committees of the House.

Through the House of Burgesses, the Virginia House of Delegates is considered the oldest continuous legislative body in the New World. Originally having 22 members, the House of Burgesses met from 1619 through 1632 in the choir of the church at Jamestown. From 1632 to 1699 the legislative body met at four different state houses in Jamestown. The first state house convened at the home of Colonial Governor, Sir John Harvey from 1632 to 1656. The burgesses convened at the second state house from 1656 until it was destroyed in 1660. Historians have yet to precisely identify its location.

The House has met in Virginia's Capitol Building, designed by Thomas Jefferson, since 1788. The legislative body met from 1788 to 1904 in what is known as today the Old Hall of the House of Delegates or commonly referred to as the Old House Chamber. The Old House Chamber is part of the original Capitol building structure. It measures 76 feet in width and is filled today with furnishings that resemble what the room would have looked like during its time of use. There are many bronze and marble busts of historic Virginians on display in the Old House Chamber, including: George Mason, George Wythe, Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee, and Meriweather Lewis. From 1904 to 1906, University of Virginia graduate and architect John K. Peeples, designed and built compatible classical wings to the west and east side of the Capitol building. The new wings added to provide more space and serve as the legislative chambers in the Virginia General Assembly, the Senate of Virginia resides in the west chamber and the House of Delegates resides in the east chamber. In recent years, the General Assembly members and staff operate from offices in the General Assembly Building, located in Capitol Square. Prior to 1788 the House of Delegates met in the Colonial Capitol of Williamsburg.

Republicans took control of the traditionally Democratic House of Delegates for the first time since Reconstruction in 1999 (with the exception of a brief 2 year period in which the Readjuster Party was in the majority in the 1880s).

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