Here is a lengthy but informal article by Virginians for the Arts (VFTA) on the legislative process for arts funding in the Commonwealth. In 2011 the Commission granted $274,000 to 28 arts organizations in Fairfax County.
VFTA advocates for state funding for the Virginia Commission for the Arts (VCA), the state agency in Virginia that awards grants to arts organizations statewide. VFTA also works to garner support and appreciation for the important role the arts play in the economic, educational and cultural life of all Virginians.
Beginning in the late spring or early summer each year, the VFTA legislative team meets to work on a strategy for the upcoming General Assembly session. The legislative team consists of VFTA leadership, legislative counsel, and representatives of the VCA commissioners and the VFTA legislative committee. The legislative team determines the what the "ask" - the level of funding that VFTA will ask the Governor and the General Assembly to appropriate for VCA - will be for the next budget year. The legislative team also develops an overarching message and talking points to be used when advocating for VCA funding.
Over the summer, the legislative team meets with members of the Governor's policy office and the Secretary of Education's office, and sometimes additional Administration and legislative committee officials, to present VFTA's request for funding for VCA. These meetings are also good opportunities to share jobs and economic development statistics and other related anecdotes that highlight the positive economic impact of state funding for the arts in Virginia.
Beginning in mid-summer and through the fall, VFTA members - in coordination with the VFTA legislative committee - meet with legislators in their district offices and frequently invite legislators to attend arts events. These are wonderful opportunities to develop strong relationships with legislators and to get them involved in the arts on a personal level. During election years, legislative counsel provides additional materials related to General Assembly elections, so that VFTA members are prepared to meet with and learn more about candidates running for office.
In mid-December, the Governor presents his recommended budget to the General Assembly in a special meeting, where he outlines his budget priorities. The appropriation for VCA in the Governor's proposed budget sets the stage for VFTA action during the General Assembly session.
After the General Assembly session convenes in early January, the Governor's budget is referred to the Appropriations Committee in the House of Delegates and the Finance Committee in the Senate in the form of a bill. Members of the General Assembly offer amendments to the budget bill that are reviewed by the appropriate Subcommittees in each House. The Education Subcommittee of the Senate Finance Committee and the Higher Education Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee oversee funding for VCA. The legislative team, with help from the VFTA legislative committee, works closely with senior members of the House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees to submit budget amendments that provide additional funding for VCA for arts grants.
In January and February, Subcommittees hold hearings and sometimes invite individuals and organizations to speak to different aspects of the budget. Subcommittees do not vote publicly on individual budget amendments, but working with staff, they begin to draft recommendations on budget amendments. The legislative team meets frequently with members of the House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees, including the chairmen of the Committees, and other influential legislators, asking them to support VFTA's budget amendments.
In early February of odd-numbered years and late February of even-numbered years, Subcommittee Reports are presented to the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. The Appropriations Committee and the Finance Committee then vote to accept or reject the budget amendments outlined in each Subcommittee report.
A few days after the Committees vote, the amended budget bills move to the floor of each House, where additional amendments can be made. The full House votes on its budget bill and the Senate votes on its bill, then the two bodies exchange bills and vote on each other's version of the budget. A conference committee is appointed to resolve differences between the two budgets. The conference committee usually consists of six members of the House and six members of the Senate. At this point, the legislative team focuses its lobbying efforts on the budget conferees, encouraging them to support increased funding for VCA.
After the conferees reach an agreement on the budget, the House and Senate vote to adopt a Conference Report, which contains the amendments to the budget that have been agreed upon by the conferees. The amended budget bill is then sent to the Governor for his review.
The Governor may sign or veto the budget, or he may choose to veto or amend sections of the bill. If he vetoes the bill or any items in the bill, it goes back to the General Assembly during a reconvened session, usually held in April. If he recommends amendments, the bill goes back to the General Assembly during the reconvened session for consideration and action on the proposed amendments. If the Governor vetoes or reduces funding for VCA in his budget amendments, the legislative team and VFTA members contact legislators asking them to reject the Governor's amendments.
Once the Governor sings the budget, it becomes law on July 1 in even-numbered years and the date of passage in odd-numbered