Republicans have a mixed response to Governor Ralph Northam’s message to lawmakers in his 2019 State of the Commonwealth Address.
They loved the parts where he talked about economic development and bringing jobs to Virginia. But when he started talking about social issues, that’s where they parted ways. “There were a lot of great calls for bipartisanship in between his comments in support of abortion and increased gun regulations,” Senator David Sutterlein of Roanoke County said Wednesday night.
Democrats were thrilled with the speech, especially the governor’s call to decriminalize possession of marijuana. “You put people in prison because they’re dangerous to society, not because you’re pissed off at them," quipped Senator Dick Saslaw.
House Republican Leader Todd Gilbert says that proposal to decriminalize marijuana posession won’t have much traction in the GOP-controlled General Assembly. “There are states that have gotten way ahead of themselves on this issue that are now grappling with the effects of it, and Virginia needs to be very careful about not repeating those mistakes," Gilbert said Wednesday night. "And in my opinion we should continue allowing those other states to try to find a model moving forward for that particular issue and that particular substance.”
Even if lawmakers aren’t able to come to a conclusion on the issue, both sides can take the issue to voters in the election later this year. Every seat in the House and Senate will be on the ballot in November 2019.
Lawmakers are only here two months, but Governor Northam is planning a very full agenda, everything from extending high-speed internet access in rural areas to allowing no-excuse absentee voting.