A Commonwealth of Virginia Website

Constitutional Duties as President of the Senate of Virginia

Welcoming Virginians

While many of the duties on the dais of the Senate involve ruling on procedural matters, I also have the privilege of welcoming guests from across the Commonwealth who sit in the balcony to watch the Senate proceedings. These introductions occur during what is called the “Morning Hour”, and you should contact one of the Senators if you would like to be introduced from the gallery while the Senate is in session.

Breaking Tie Votes

One of the most important duties of the Lt. Governor is to break ties on Senate bills and other matters involving organization of the Senate. In that role, I was very proud to cast four crucial tie-breaking votes to ensure that Medicaid expansion passed the Senate -- expanding healthcare access to over 400,000 Virginians.

Peaceful Protest 

At times, unique opportunities present themselves when as Lt. Governor I am able to highlight the need for Virginia to move forward from troubling elements of its past. When I was asked to adjourn the Senate in honor of Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, I chose not to do so. Instead, I peacefully protested the Senate action by stepping off the dais and requested that the President Pro Tempore take my place. As only the second African American statewide official ever elected in Virginia and the descendant of enslaved Africans, I could not preside over an action honoring those who sought to extend slavery’s presence in the Commonwealth and beyond. Instead, I sat quietly on the bench used by the Senate Pages and contemplated the June 5, 1798 manumission document by which Lord Thomas Fairfax freed my great-great-great grandfather Simon Fairfax from slavery in Virginia.