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General Assembly seniority rankings will carry extra significance in 2024


The incoming members of the General Assembly may all be walking into the Capitol at the same time. But, they will all have different seniority rankings.

Perhaps the most important number to every member of the General Assembly is their seniority ranking. It influences where they sit on the floor, where they are in line to become chairmen of committees – it’s even plastered across the license plates of the cars they drive.

"Our entering class was just done alphabetically," says Republican Senator Emmett Hanger of Augusta County —remembering his time as a House freshman in the early 1980s.

"George Allen was in my class, and he had a higher ranking than I did."

These days, the seniority rankings for the new members are done randomly pulling pieces paper out of what the clerk's office calls the Box O' Seniority. Former House Democratic Leader David Toscano says the real significance of the seniority rankings is the license plates.

"Everybody measures where you are based on that darn license plate," says Toscano. "In fact, I kept every license plate I ever got because every year the numbers would change as people left. And so eventually I think I got down to 22."

This year, the rankings for the incoming class of House freshmen are particularly important because there are so many of them. About one third of the House chamber will be brand new members when the House gavels into session in January.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.