March 1, 2019 - Volume 39 Issue 8


Roger Hanshaw

By Rebecca Tinder  

We’ve all watched the legislative process and reviewed new laws that have passed as well as reviewed revisions to existing laws, but when do those changes take effect?

In order to answer this question, we must first understand the process. The governor receives a bill after both chambers, the House and Senate, approve the bill in the same form. The governor, then, has five days to approve or veto a bill he receives, while the Legislature is in session. However, the governor has 15 days to act on most bills, after the Legislature adjourns. The budget bill and supplemental appropriations bills always have to be acted upon by the governor within five days. Bills automatically become law without the signature of the governor, if he fails act within these time limits.

When the governor vetoes (turns it down or rejects) a bill, if a majority of the members of the legislature, both chambers, vote to do so, the bill is approved. (A vote of 2/3 of the members of the legislature is needed to override a governor’s veto of a budget or supplemental appropriation bill.)

But this does not answer the question of when the changes in the bill become effective.

According to the West Virginia Constitution, Article VI, § 30, in part, “no act of the Legislature, except such as may be passed at the first session under this constitution, shall take effect until the expiration of ninety days after its passage, unless the Legislature shall by a vote of two thirds of the members elected to each house, taken by yeas and nays, otherwise direct.” Thus, unless otherwise stated in the bill, the effective date is ninety days after passage.

However, there are many occasions when a different date is set, such as to be effective July 1 of the current year, on many education-related bills, or in effect from passage. These effective dates, found usually after the bill number, bill sponsors and the passed date on the bill, provide the date when the new provisions in the bill take effect.

But, if a bill indicates that it is in effect from passage, is that the date that the governor signs it, or when the 5 or 15 days expire?

According to City of Benwood v. Bd. of Educ., 573 S.E.2d 347, 212 W.Va. 436 (W. Va., 2002), “[s]imply put, for more than a hundred years this Court has held that the effective dates of legislation are determined by the Legislature and not the Governor. …we find that the circuit court erred to the extent that it ruled that a bill made ‘effective from passage’ does not take effect until the date it is signed by the Governor.” Thus, bills that pass both chambers, in the same form, that state that they are in effect from passage, are in effect on the date of passage, even before signed by the Governor and before the passage of the 5 or 15 days. Beware of these bills, as you may have new or revised duties that spring up upon passage!

Editor's Note: Rebecca Tinder is a partner at the law firm of Bowles Rice.