Virginia’s Governor delivered the State of the Commonwealth address Wednesday night. He got consistent applause from lawmakers in both parties by focusing on bipartisan successes from last year, like expanding Medicaid and rolling back regulations.
Looking ahead to this year, Governor Ralph Northam veered into slightly more progressive policy. He announced support for decriminalizing marijuana, codifying a woman’s right to make her own healthcare choices, and passing regulations to reduce gun deaths.
"I recognize that this is a topic where it has been difficult to have meaningful dialogue. Dialogue is by its definition is an exchange of ideas and opinions in order to resolve a problem,” Northam said. “I hope we can all agree that yes, we have a problem."
Northam did not mention the divisive political issue of redistricting. That’s looming large over upcoming state elections.
“I’m not going to pretend that there won’t be 140 campaigns to run after we adjourn here, not mine,” Northam said to laughter. “But this isn’t Washington. We come to Richmond to do the people’s work...And there’s a lot we can accomplish together.”
Northam said lawmakers can work together on creating economic opportunity, giving teachers a raise, and keeping more people out of jail.
Referencing the government shutdown in D.C., he said Virginia politicians can find a different path forward.
“I believe that most of the time people find what they’re looking for,” Northam said. If they’re looking for division, they’ll find it. But if we look for areas where we can agree we’ll find them.”
Virginia’s legislature is narrowly controlled by Republicans.