The Executive Committee of the Virginia Code Commission
Every law enacted by a regular or special session of the General Assembly is published in its entirety in the Acts of Assembly. The Acts of Assembly, collected in volumes by year, form the official law of the Commonwealth. Each act appears as a numbered chapter, assigned in consecutive ascending order based on the date of signing. This process is accomplished by the Office of the Clerk of the House of Delegates.
The Code of Virginia (the Code) is an ongoing compilation of laws drawn from the Acts of Assembly and organized by subject-area title. While not the official law of the Commonwealth, the Code is useful and usable. An unannotated version of the Code is presented and regularly updated online by the Division of Legislative Automated Systems at the Virginia Law Portal.
The Virginia Code Commission (§ 30-145 et seq. of the Code of Virginia) is tasked with arranging "for the codification and incorporation into the Code of Virginia of all general and permanent statutes enacted" (§ 30-148). The Commission, working through its Executive Committee, fulfills this mandate by (i) publishing and maintaining the Code and (ii) undertaking the work of editing that pulls the correct elements of each year's acts into the existing Code.
Not all new acts are codified, since some of them are of limited duration or effect, require action by a future session of the General Assembly, or are resolutions.
Editorial-Level Changes to Enacted Code Sections
Section numbers. Most acts assign section numbers to the new Code sections they create, according to the next available number in the Code's organizational scheme. When two or more bills logically assign the same next-available number to different proposed sections, and both or all become law, the Executive Committee must create appropriate discrete section numbers for each new section. The same renumbering or relettering is needed when two acts add different subsections, both designated as subsection D, for example, to an existing Code section.
During a year in which a title revision becomes effective, the Executive Committee oversees the update of all of the affected cross-references throughout the Code. In addition, if any act in the same session amends a section that is affected by the title revision, that amendment is altered so that it corresponds appropriately to the title revision upon its effective date.
Contingent effect. If an act amends the Code but contains a sunset clause, a delayed effective date, or a relevant type of contingency, such as a provision repealing the law if a particular federal law is repealed in the future, the affected section will be set out twice in the Code—once as it stands today and once as it will stand at some future date, whether or not the date is known.
Amendment of a section by two or more acts. It is common for two or more acts to amend the same Code section in different ways. The Executive Committee includes all changes made by all acts, blending the amendments in such a way as to effect the will of the General Assembly.
In some cases, two acts will make amendments that are in direct conflict with each other; both amendments cannot be given effect. For example, if two enactments amended a Code section that established a governing board, one by adding 10 new board members and another, enacted later, by adding seven new members, both enactments could not go into effect. In that case, only the later act would become effective by adding seven new members to the board. The precedence given to later-in-time enactments is based on a common-law rule:
It is a well established rule of construction that full force and effect must be given to each provision of statutory law. It must clearly appear that the statute is in conflict with a former statute and that the two are so inconsistent that both cannot prevail before the prior statute may be held to be repealed or inoperative. Apparent inconsistencies must be reconciled if reasonably possible. Repeal of a statute by implication is not favored. Nexsen v. Board of Supervisors, 142 Va. 313, 320, 128 S.E. 570; Bray v. County Board, 195 Va. 31, 77 S.E.2d 479; County of Fairfax v. Alexandria, 193 Va. 82, 68 S.E.2d 101. The same rule applies to statutes enacted at the same session of the legislature.
Richmond v. Bd. of Supervisors, 199 Va. 679, 685, 101 S.E.2d 641, 646 (1958).
Codification of Provisions That Otherwise Would Not Be Codified
Section 1 bills. While acts giving names to bridges, directing relief payments to individuals, or establishing the state budget are not often proper subjects for codification, some so-called Section 1 bills are assigned places in the Code. For example, HB 2046 of the 2017 Session, enacted as Chapter 114 of the Acts of Assembly of 2017, reads in part:
§ 1. That the Board of Pharmacy shall develop guidelines for the provision of counseling and information[.]
The Executive Committee determined that this statute, because it is of a general nature and permanent in effect, should be codified at an appropriate place in the Code, and it made the following changes:
1. That the § 54.1-3411.2:1. Guidelines for disposal of unused drugs. The Board of Pharmacy shall develop guidelines for the provision of counseling and information[.]
Enactment clauses. The first enactment of SB 1343 of the 2017 Session (enacted as Chapter 676 of the Acts of Assembly of 2017) amended an existing Code section by adding a new subsection, which begins as follows:
C. In any proceeding in which the court appoints a guardian ad litem to represent a child pursuant to § 16.1-266, the court shall order the parent, or other party with a legitimate interest […]
The phrase "other party with a legitimate interest" was not defined in the Code. The second enactment of Chapter 676 reads:
2. That for the purposes of this act, "other party with a legitimate interest" shall not include child welfare agencies or local departments of social services.
Because that second enactment is of a general nature and permanent in effect, the Executive Committee determined that the following alterations were appropriate:
C. 1. In any proceeding in which the court appoints a guardian ad litem to represent a child pursuant to § 16.1-266, the court shall order the parent, or other party with a legitimate interest […]
2. That for For the purposes of this act subsection, "other party with a legitimate interest" shall not include child welfare agencies or local departments of social services.
Members of the Executive Committee
Scott Meacham, Senior Attorney, Division of Legislative Services
Christopher R. Nolen, Partner, McGuireWoods, LLP
Samuel T. Towell, Deputy Attorney General, Civil Litigation, Office of the Attorney General