Executive Orders

The Governor is the head of the executive branch of government – the Commonwealth’s CEO.  See, e.g., Va. Const. art V §§ 1 & 7; Va. Code § 2.2-103.  In that capacity, the Governor has the duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed and the power to direct the policy and administration of executive branch agencies (subject to the dictates of statutes).  The Governor’s Policy Office posts the Executive Orders and Executive Directives issued by the current administration.

Executive Orders do not necessarily expire with a change in Governor.  Each Executive Order will typically state its effective duration and whether it rescinds or modifies prior Executive Orders.  The Library of Virginia maintains an online list of the Executive Orders from prior administrations that remain in effect, including links to the actual documents.  The Library of Virginia also archives the papers of past administrations, which is the place to start for Executive Orders that are no longer in effect.  The Warner (2002-06), Kaine (2006-10), and McDonnell (2010-14) administrations have web archival collections on the Library’s website.  The Library’s web archives FAQ explains that the Gilmore (1998-2002) administration is accessible through specific URLs in the Internet Archive’s “Wayback Machine”, and the Library provides links.

Attorney General Opinions

Pursuant to Va. Code § 2.2-505, the Attorney General of Virginia (who is an independent, elected, constitutional officer, not a gubernatorial appointee) issues official written advisory opinions about Virginia law.  The website of the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) offers opinions issued since 1996.  AG opinions are not binding on Virginia courts, but they are “of the most persuasive character” and “entitled to due consideration.” Barber v. Danville, 149 Va. 418, 424, 141 S.E. 126, 127 (1928).  Also, the existence of an official opinion may be a ground for interpreting a related statute because Virginia’s “legislature is presumed to have had knowledge of the Attorney General’s interpretation of the statutes, and its failure to make corrective amendments evinces legislative acquiescence in the Attorney General’s view.” Beck v. Shelton, 267 Va. 482, 492, 593 S.E.2d 195, 200 (2004) (quoting Browning-Ferris, Inc. v. Commonwealth, 225 Va. 157, 161-62, 300 S.E.2d 603, 605-06 (1983)).

In the spring of each year, all of the opinions issued during the preceding calendar year are collected into the Annual Report of the Attorney General, which also contains a letter reporting on the OAG’s appellate cases and other significant activities.  Annual Reports since 2004 are posted on the OAG website.

Open Virginia Law is pleased to offer scanned copies of certain OAG Annual Report volumes prior to 2004.  These were scanned and then OCR’d, so they are searchable from inside Acrobat Reader.  (Pro tips:  Save a bunch of them in one folder, then search the whole folder with Acrobat Reader’s Advanced Search.  OCR isn’t perfect, so if you’re not finding the word you want, try a shorter fragment of it.)

The OAG’s official citation format for opinions of the Attorney General is “xxxx Op. Va. Att’y Gen. yyy, zzz”, where xxxx is the year, yyy is the beginning page of the opinion in the Annual Report for that year, and zzz (optional) is the pinpoint page.


Administrative agencies are created by statutes and have the powers that the General Assembly gives them.  See, e.g., Va. Const. art. III § 1; Muse v. Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Bd., 9 Va. App. 74, 78, 384 S.E.2d 110, 112 (1989).  One of those powers may be the power to issue regulations.  Once properly issued, regulations are part of the law of the Commonwealth.  Regulations cannot alter or contradict statutes.  See, e.g., Judicial Inquiry & Review Comm’n v. Elliott, 272 Va. 97, 115, 630 S.E.2d 485, 493-94 (2006); Segaloff v. City of Newport News, 209 Va. 259, 261, 163 S.E.2d 135, 137 (1968).

The website of the Virginia Register of Regulations provides a description of the long and somewhat complex process of issuing regulations and maintains a useful FAQ regarding agency regulations, documents, and actions.

Regulations that have made it all the way through that lengthy process generally become part of the Virginia Administrative Code (abbreviated or cited as the Va. Admin. Code, or the VAC), which is online through LIS.  (Emergency regulations do not become part of the VAC but also are online through LIS.)

For information regarding regulations that have been proposed and are working their way through the process, see the Virginia Regulatory Townhall.  Members of the public can register at that site to be notified of regulatory actions and meetings and can submit comments on pending regulations.  In addition, the Regulatory Townhall website provides another way to browse or look up existing regulations.

Last updated: 1/11/2014


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