The General Assembly touches the life of every Virginian. Each winter, 140 men and women gather in Richmond to pass a state budget and enact laws on behalf of the state's 8 million residents.

The General Assembly is currently NOT IN session

Who are my legislators?

Making Your Voice Heard

Define Your Goals

If all you want to do is comment or vent, it's easy to tweet, fire off an email or write a letter to your local newspaper. But if you are passionate enough to work for change or to elevate an issue out of legislative obscurity, there are ways to do this without making it a full-time job.

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Use Your Superpower

As an outsider, the General Assembly can seem like an impenetrable fortress. How do you get your voice heard?

Actually, the General Assembly is far more accessible than Congress. It's not unheard of to stop unannounced at your Delegate's or Senator's office and get a few minutes of his or her time. While it's true that the legislative session is extremely hectic and that lawmakers are outnumbered 5:1 by professional lobbyists, a constituent has a special power — the right to vote. So it's best to start with your own representatives; you have two of them, one in the House of Delegates and one in the Senate.

Caveat: Your superpower works only if you are a registered voter. If you have not gotten around to registering (shame on you), don't try to fake it. Some legislators know far more about you than you know about them. Some will have voter files that will not only indicate you are registered to vote but how often you vote.

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Relationships Matter

If you don't know your legislator, find someone who does. A legislator is more likely to respond favorably with an introduction from someone they know.

Do some basic research, and you may discover you have some connection to your legislators.

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Email or Snail Mail?

Lawmakers' staff are pretty good at filtering out mass-produced communications churned out by interest groups and top-down "grass tops" efforts. You'd be surprised how you can get a legislator's attention with a genuine constituent letter.

Legislators are inundated with email during session. As a result, emails sent to a legislator's state-issued email address are usually routed to a Legislative Aide or intern. Unless you have access to a legislator's personal email, the most effective form of written communication can be a throwback, a personal hand-addressed letter sent through the mail.

Most legislators have two mailing addresses, one used during the General Assembly session and one used the rest of the year.

Mailing Address During Session

  • Delegate [Name]
    House of Delegates
    PO Box 406
    Richmond, VA 23218
  • Senator [Name]
    Senate of Virginia
    PO Box 396
    Richmond, VA 23218

District Mailing Addresses

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Getting Past the Gatekeepers

For outsiders, trying to reach your legislator by phone or even stopping by their office can be intimidating. Members are busy, and each office has several levels of gatekeepers. These are all important people. Treat them well.

  • Secretary: These are part-time employees who do not work for the member, but are employed by the House or Senate. They take messages, write letters and do administrative tasks. If you want to make an appointment, they usually will hand you off to the legislative assistant, who keeps the calendar.

  • Intern: These are volunteers (mostly college students) assigned to meet with people when the legislator or legislative aide is unavailable. As you speak, they will take notes. If you bring something in writing, keep it to a single page. You can hope your message will be brought to the legislator's attention.

    Tip: If you are meeting regarding a piece of legislation that is about to be heard, ask the intern if they can put your handout in the folder the legislator will take with them to committee. That way you can increase the chances they will see what you brought along with you.

  • Legislative Assistant: These are full-time employees of the member who are the ultimate gatekeeper (they also are known as "legislative aides"). They work and live in the district, handle constituent affairs, often work in the campaign and are often trusted advisors. Get to know the Legislative Assistant; he or she is your best friend.

Before you make a cold call, look up the representative and find the name of his or her Legislative Assistant(s).

Legislative Assistant

When you dial a representative's office, act like they are expecting your call. Say something like, "Is [Legislative Assistant's first name] there? This is [your full name] from [your community or neighborhood within the district]." Say no more. Make it sound like your name and neighborhood speak for themselves. Once you get the Legislative Assistant on the phone, you can take it from there. Don't be defensive or rude. Remember, the Legislative Assistant is your new best friend.

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Coalition Building

The most effective way to get things done in the legislature is to join with others who share your particular interest. Start with your neighbors and others in your community. Are there established groups that might be working on the same or similar issues that you could join forces with? Be creative. Partners sometimes turn out to be a group with which you have very little in common, but with whom you can find common ground on a specific issue.

VPAP maintains a list of groups that are registered to lobby the General Assembly. Search for Coalition Partners

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Start Early

This advice may be too late for this year, but it's always better to contact your legislator several months before the annual General Assembly session begins each January. You are more likely to get an appointment and you will have more time to explain your position or idea. If your representative likes your idea, he or she will need time to submit a bill drafting request before the pre-file deadline in early December.

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Visiting Capitol Square

Testifying Online

Citizens will be given the opportunity to provide committee testimony without having to travel to Richmond. Both House and Senate officials have said they will accept committee testimony via Zoom and receive written comments online.

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Getting There

Capitol Square is located in downtown Richmond, on a hill overlooking the James River. Google Map

  • By Car:

    Out-of-towners who travel to Richmond on I-95 or I-64 find that reaching Capitol Square is a relative snap. Thanks to "urban redevelopment" in the 1950s, transportation planners blasted a corridor within blocks of the heart of downtown Richmond. Today, I-64 comes within a mile of the Capitol Building, while I-95 is only five blocks away.

    Change in Traffic Pattern: Starting in 2018, Bank Street — located on the south border of Capitol Square — will be closed to traffic between 9th Street and 12th Street.

    Finding the Capitol is one thing, but finding public parking is another thing altogether. All directions below are to the main public entrance to the Capitol Building. A better strategy might be to set directions to the parking lot/garage options found here.

    • Interstate 95
      • From the North: Take Exit 74-B. CAUTION: Watch your speed as you exit as the exit ramp is extremely short. At the light at the foot of the ramp, turn right on Bank Street. Go up the hill four blocks, the main public entrance will be on your right at 1000 E. Bank Street.
      • From the South: Take Exit 74-C. At the end of the ramp, merge onto 17th Street. Continue three blocks. At the light, turn right onto Broad Street. Climb a steep hill and turn left on 8th Street. Go two blocks and turn left onto Franklin Street. Continue one block to a T-intersection, Capitol Square will be ahead of you. Turn right on 9th Street and take an immediate left onto Bank Street. After one block, the public entrance to the Capitol Building will be on your left.
    • Interstate 64
      • From the West: At the intersection with I-95 (mile marker 186), follow signs for I-95 South. Take Exit 74-B. CAUTION: Watch your speed as you exit as the exit ramp is extremely short. At the light at the foot of the ramp, turn right on Bank Street. Go up the hill four blocks, the main public entrance will be on your right at 1000 E. Bank Street.
      • From the East: As you approach the intersection with I-95 (mile marker 190), follow the signs for the "5th Street" Exit. Continue on 5th Street for seven blocks. Turn left onto Franklin Street. Continue four blocks to a T-intersection, Capitol Square will be ahead of you. Turn right on 9th Street and take an immediate left onto Bank Street. After one block, the public entrance to the Capitol Building will be on your left.
  • By Train:

    Richmond is the southern terminus point for Amtrak's Northeast Corridor. There are two stations in the Richmond area. Nearly all of the scheduled trains use the Staples Mill Road Station in suburban Henrico County, about eight miles north of the State Capitol. Arrivals and departures of Amtrak Northeast Regional trains from Main Street Station, a seven-block walk uphill to the Capitol, are far less frequent. For timetables, visit or call 1-800-872-7245.

  • By GRTC Bus:

    Its location in the heart of downtown Richmond makes Capitol Square reachable from nearly every route on the GRTC system. Due to the pandemic, bus fare is free until June 30, 2022. You can read more here. GRTC Pulse and some downtown local bus routes have high-frequency from 6 AM until 7 PM Monday through Saturday. Note: Many routes have reduced or no service on Sundays and holidays. Use the GRTC Trip Planner , view the overall system map , or call (804) 358-4782.

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Capitol Parking Map

Click for a larger version of the parking map

Parking in close proximity to Capitol Square is expensive. Perhaps not as pricey in Washington, D.C., but a real shock for suburban visitors who are used to free parking.

Street Parking. Parking on the street is limited to 2 hours and costs $1.25 per hour. Pay by credit card or cash at parking pay stations. More on street parking rules

Parking Lots, Decks. There are a number of off-street options. Here are some of the most convenient:

  1. Parking garage attached to the Marriott (500 E Broad St.), seven blocks from Pocahontas Building. Early bird special (6 AM to 9 AM): $8 for the day. Regular daily rate of $18.
  2. Parking garage on 7th Street, six blocks from Pocahontas Building. Early bird special (6 AM to 9 AM): $8 for the day. Regular daily rate $18.
  3. Surface lot on Grace between 7th and 6th streets, four blocks from Pocahontas Building. You can't get any closer, but you'll pay for the convenience. Fills up early. $20 for the day.
  4. Surface lot on southwest corner of Broad and 5th Street. four blocks from Capitol Square. Early bird special in before 9 AM: $8 for the day. Regular daily rate of $18.
  5. Surface lot on southeast corner of Broad and Sixth Streets. Daily rate of $20.
  6. James Center lot at corner of 10th Street and Canal. Two blocks from Pocahontas Building. Daily rate of $21.

There are other parking lots scattered throughout downtown Richmond. If these lots are all full, you should be able to find parking, it just might be a bit of a hike.

View list of all parking in downtown Richmond

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COVID Protocols

After a year of mostly online meetings, the General Assembly will return to in-person meetings in January 2022. The intent is for both committee meetings and floor sessions to take place in person at the State Capitol (where daily floor sessions and some committee meetings) and the Pocahontas Building (where legislators' offices are located and many committee meetings are held).

  • Vaccine Requirement: Vaccines are encouraged, but not required.
  • Mask Requirement: Masks are required for anyone on the Senate floor or in the Senate Gallery. Masks are encouraged but optional in the House gallery and in the Pocahontas Building. Medical-grade K95 masks will be available to anyone who wishes to use them.
  • Separate Rules for Members' Offices: Members of the House and Senate can establish their own COVID rules for those who wish to visit their offices in the Pocahontas Building.
  • Reduced Committee Room Capacity: To allow social distancing, tewer people will be allowed to attend committee meetings. Those in attendance will no longer be able to stand in the perimeter or gather in the back of the rooms.
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Security Screening

Not so long ago, all of the public buildings on Capitol Square were open to the public. Anyone could come and go as they pleased, without showing an ID or emptying their pockets. After 9/11, public access was drastically restricted. Citizens now need an appointment to enter most state office buildings other than the Capitol Building.

To enter the Capitol Building and the Pocahontas Building, members of the public must pass through metal detectors. The screening line can be long at certain times. If you have an appointment or are planning on attending a hearing, it's a good idea to arrive plenty early to give yourself time to clear security.

Under House and Senate rules, the following items are prohibited:

Any device that may disrupt the conduct of business, including but not limited to voice-amplification equipment; bullhorns; blow horns; sirens, or other noise-producing devices; as well as signs on sticks, poles or stakes; or helium-filled balloons.


Effective July 2021, people are not allowed to bring firearms onto the groups of Capital Square, inside the State Capitol or inside the Pocahontas Building. This ban includes no exception for people with valid concealed carry permits.

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Making the Most of Your Day

Virginia has one of the nation's most compressed legislative sessions, so the pace ranges from rushed to frenzied. Understanding how a typical day unfolds can help you make the most of your time on Capitol Square.

  • Before Hours: The Pocahontas Building comes to life before dawn (except on Mondays). Some subcommittee meetings are often scheduled before 9 AM. Still, the early morning can be one of the best times for unscheduled face time with a legislator or his or her aide.
  • Morning: The mornings are jammed with committee meetings, which will be held in the Pocahontas Building and the Capitol Building.
  • Late Morning: The Pocahontas Building starts clearing out shortly after 11, as legislators head to the Capitol Building for the daily Republican and Democratic caucus sessions. Bank Street is a good place to catch a brief word with legislators as they make their way to the Capitol.
  • Noon: The House and Senate are gaveled into order at noon on most days. (Exceptions are Friday, when out-of-town legislators are eager to get on the road.) Things are much more quiet in the Pocahontas Building so this can be a good time to meet with legislative aides.
  • Afternoon: After the daily floor sessions end (adjournment time varies and can be highly unpredictable), committee and subcommittees resume meeting in the Capitol Building and the Pocahontas Building.
  • Evening: The Pocahontas Building clears out around 6 PM as legislators head to one of several receptions around town or a quiet dinner at their hotel.
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Where to Eat

On Capitol Square, there are two options for breakfast and lunch.

  • Meriwether's Cafe (Capitol): Located in the Capitol Extension near the main public entrance. The cafe offers sandwiches, salads, sides and sweet treats. Seating is limited, and the cafe can be very crowded.
  • There is no food served in the Pocahontas Building. But across Main Street is the SunTrust Building, where a third-floor café is a good place to find a bite to eat and get away from the crowds.

Hours and additional information on these two locations can be found here .

Here are some restaurants that are within a 5-block radius of Capitol Square:

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The main public entrances to the Pocahontas Building on Main Street and the Capitol Building on Bank Street are both handicap accessible.

Getting from the General Assembly Building to the public entrance of the Capitol Building will mean staying on the sidewalk along 9th Street and Bank Street.

Cars with handicapped plates or hang tags are able to park and unload passengers on Bank Street near the public entrance. There is no public parking on the Capitol Square grounds.

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