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State of the Commonwealth Live Blog

by Dan Sullivan

Observing the Republican General Assembly
members’ reactions to Governor McAuliffe’s State of the Commonwealth address
this evening may reveal the tone of the long and possibly extended and potential
special session(s). Will old Virginny gentility and civility win out?

Undeniably, Virginia’s economic outlook has improved significantly during his first two years in office. Governor McAuliffe has aggressively and successfully pursued his goal of bringing Virginians new employment opportunities. He has been the state’s best jobs ambassador ever. Revenues have grown and the outlook for continued growth is better than good. This provides his administration and the General Assembly the ability to improve the lives of Virginians across the board.

In town halls across Virginia, members of the majority party in
both chambers have expressed their appreciation for the compliant (they don’t use
cooperative or consensus) approach the Governor took during his second session which
followed a somewhat rancorous and tense first go-round. Republicans have
expressed their disappointment that he has included Medicaid expansion in this
proposed budget without consultation. He may actually have thought he had made
nice in an effort to gain support, but that is another story and it doesn’t
seem to have mattered.

“I think it’s become clear over the last two
years that there’s nothing Governor McAuliffe takes more seriously than working
with anyone who will sit at a table with him on making Virginia a stronger and
better place to live,” said McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy. — as reported by Graham Moomaw

Tonight we’ll hear about jobs, education, including innovation
at the high school level (key components of ‘Education and Workforce in a New Virginia Economy’, LGBTQ rights, teachers’ salaries, veterans, infrastructure,
healthcare including women’s choice, and what we would call public safety but
which the other side of the aisle will call gun control. In what order those
are addressed may affect the legislative tone, but there are two topics which will
steer the Republican ship: Medicaid expansion and concealed carry reciprocity;
neck and neck. The Virginia Supreme Court appointment fight will only provide

“When Terry McAuliffe began his campaign for
governor in 2012, he promised Virginians that if they elect him, he would spend
every day building a stronger, more equal and more prosperous commonwealth,”
Brian Zuzenak, director of McAuliffe’s Common Good VA PAC, said in a written
statement. “Halfway through his term, Governor McAuliffe is making good on that
promise by creating jobs, expanding economic opportunities and making Virginia
more open and equal to all people.”

It is being live streamed by a number of media outlets.

We’ll follow the address this evening here. In the meantime,
any thoughts on tonight’s address or the prospects for this session?

Priorities raised during the address:

Jobs and education: “…strategic investments…the significant
power that we in this room have to make a real difference in the lives of the
people who sent us here to represent them.
We can change lives by giving the high school student who is
uncertain about his future the training he needs to get a great job in
We can change lives by helping the small business owner make
the connections that she needs to sell to customers in China, India and Cuba.”

“We have proposed a
significant infusion of resources into our public schools, including $139
million dollars to fund 2,500 additional instructional positions.

We will take Virginia’s
investment in public education to $6.78 billion dollars in fiscal year 18, the
highest level in the Commonwealth’s history.

Now, this does not mean
that we should invest taxpayer dollars in education just for the sake of it. We
should invest in smart, innovative programs that get results for the students,
communities and the businesses that we serve.”

“Lieutenant Governor
Ralph Northam and his team worked closely with us to win a $17.5 million dollar
annual grant from the U.S. Department of Education to provide high-quality
pre-kindergarten classes for 13,000 children.”

“You cannot build an economy for 2050 with a 1950s approach to education.
So this year, I have proposed legislation to begin a fundamental change in Virginia’s approach to high school education.

We will put greater emphasis on hands-on learning, internships, early college courses and industry credentials, rather than classroom seat-time.

Our high schools were designed during the Industrial Revolution to prepare workers with the basic information and skills needed for the jobs of that day and time.

This is a particularly urgent matter for more than 2 million Virginians living in rural regions.”
“To all the parents
watching tonight, we have 17,000 cyber jobs open with an average starting pay
of $88,000.
For those of us old
enough to remember the movie, The Graduate, the key word then was “plastics.”
Today, it’s “cyber.”

“These new high schools
that we are designing will benefit students like James DeLoach, an 8th
grader in Goochland County who is already a skilled coder and has even designed
an award-winning app. Let’s welcome James, who is here with us this evening.
If we are going to
prepare students for the jobs of today and create the jobs of tomorrow, we must
fundamentally change the way we think about education.”

“And as we take a new
approach to public education, we cannot ignore the fundamental problem that too
many students, one in six in fact, lack the basic nutrition they need to
fulfill their potential.

I am proud of the
progress that we have made on this important issue thanks to our First Lady’s
outreach and advocacy. Today 100,000 Virginia students in 26 school divisions
are now benefiting from the community eligibility provision, which allows
schools to provide meals at no cost to the students or their families.”

“The budget we will work
on together also contains funding to make our higher education system more
accessible to all students, and to better prepare those students for the
economy of the future.”

GOP reaction to Medicaid expansion photo Republican response to expansion_zps5x2zn6g8.jpg

Medicaid Expansion: “We can change lives by giving a Mom with
diabetes the medical care that she needs to stay healthy and to be there for
her children. (Here you see the GOP support for Medicaid expansion)

I know from my own career in business that you cannot take
opportunities for granted. If you pass one up, you may not get another.”
“If we sit down at the
table together in good will, we can find a way forward together on the
important issue of Medicaid expansion. (Here you see the GOP members expressing their support)

Each day that we do not
close the coverage gap, we forfeit $6.6 million dollars in federal money. 
Each month we are wasting $15 million in costs to state taxpayers that could be
covered entirely with federal dollars. 

Just yesterday,
Louisiana became the 31st state to expand coverage, along with the
District of Columbia. They are now reaping economic, budgetary and
quality-of-life benefits that we continue to leave on the table.

Just this past week, I
met with Governor Herbert, the chairman of the National Governors Association.
He is pushing to expand coverage in the conservative state of Utah.  He is
at least the third conservative Republican governor who has asked me, with
surprise in his voice, “Why wouldn’t you bring your own money home to get
health care for your citizens?” 

“… I will not hesitate to veto legislation that I believe harms those important goals. Specifically, I am prepared to veto bills that roll back the progress that we have made on marriage equality and women’s access to health care.”

Appeals for bipartisanship:
“Tonight I am here to tell you that the state of our Commonwealth is strong,
and that by working together for the next 60 days we can make it even stronger.”

“Let us use these 60
days to strengthen our investment in education, further reform our Standards of
Learning and make every single Virginia classroom a place where students are
being prepared to lead in the 21st century.” 

“I am convinced that we
can find a bipartisan, Virginia solution that totally protects our
Commonwealth’s finances while taking advantage of this historic opportunity to
make our state a better place to live.
I ask that you review
the details of our plan with an open mind and work with me to reach a
resolution that will benefit our constituents, our hospitals and our

As I have said before,
my door is always open. And history is on our side. “

“We have also partnered
to strengthen our pension funds for the long term.
Thanks to bipartisan
cooperation, thousands of public servants can rest assured that their
retirement benefits are on firm footing.

I know that this issue
is always on the minds of Speaker Howell and Chairman Chris Jones. Indeed, the
Speaker has proposed the creation of a commission to explore the future of the
Virginia Retirement System, and I hope that the funds in my budget can be a
starting point for moving us toward a stable and sustainable program.

As a first step, I hope
that we will work together to fully fund our pension contribution rates by the
end of the coming biennium, which will be two years ahead of schedule.”

“Our ideas and proposals
are not partisan, nor should they be controversial. I do not expect that you
will accept every single one of them, but I am optimistic that our work will be
defined more by cooperation than by conflict.

I hope that same
approach will be reflected in the bills that you send to me for consideration
as this session progresses.”

“But I will not hesitate
to veto legislation that I believe harms those important goals. Specifically, I
am prepared to veto bills that roll back the progress that we have made on
marriage equality and women’s access to health care.”

“But I will not hesitate
to veto legislation that I believe harms those important goals. Specifically, I
am prepared to veto bills that roll back the progress that we have made on
marriage equality and women’s access to health care.”

“It is my hope that our
work together this session will be devoted to productive areas where there is
room for compromise, and not political sideshows that distract from matters
that demand our urgent attention.  So let us resolve this evening to spend
as much of this important session as possible laying a solid foundation for the
new Virginia economy our families deserve.” 

A New Virginia Economy: “I
started this job convinced that all of our Commonwealth’s challenges trace back
to one essential solution: building a new Virginia economy, one that is
diverse, sustainable and offers new opportunities for everyone.”

A litany of jobs

  • As
    we’ve grown our economy overall, we’ve also sharpened our competitive edge in
    high-growth industries like cybersecurity and biosciences.
  • Last month,
    Virginia beat out 46 other states for a new Air Force Cyber Operations
    Squadron, to be located at Langley Air Force Base.
  • And tomorrow I
    will be in Northern Virginia to cut the ribbon for VISA’s new state-of-the-art
    cyber fusion center, which will provide threat detection and command and
    control operations for the world’s largest payment network.
  • I am proud
    that Virginia beat out Colorado and Texas for this major economic development
  • Here in
    Virginia, we’ve also steadily accelerated our push to increase exports of all
    Virginia products and services to global markets
  • Why? Because
    95 percent of global customers live outside of the United States, and 81% of
    all global economic growth will occur outside the U.S. through 2020.
  • We have
    visited those markets personally, opening up India to Virginia-grown apples for
    the first time in history.
  • And we have
    worked to lift the bans on poultry exports to Oman and Kuwait.
  • Just this
    week, we received our first ever order for two containers of poultry to be
    shipped to Oman.
  • And last week,
    we traveled to Cuba, where we were able to forge a deal between Virginia’s port
    and the new $1 billion dollar Port of Mariel
  • We’ve also
    assisted 692 Virginia companies eager to tap international markets through our
    trade programs
  • And 182 of
    those businesses have traveled overseas to make personal connections with new
    customers and new opportunities.
  • Renewables: “Recently,
    we met with the leaders from Microsoft, Google and Amazon, and they made it
    perfectly clear that they will only do business and create jobs in states that
    can provide renewable energy to power their operations. Renewables also offer
    an opportunity for our manufacturing sector, so that every single solar panel
    or wind turbine we install has “Made in Virginia” stamped right on it.”
    Veterans: “Our Virginia
    Values Veterans program has helped to connect more than 13,000 veterans with
    companies eager to hire them.

    By 2018, we will reach
    our goal to help 20,000 veterans find jobs and keep them and their skills here in
    the Commonwealth.

    In partnership with
    Senator Louise Lucas and Leader Kirk Cox, we also secured funding for two new
    veteran care centers in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.

    And Virginia was the
    first and so far the only state in the nation to be certified as
    functionally ending veteran homelessness.”

    Transportation: “We have
    also made great progress in unlocking Northern Virginia from the congestion
    that keeps this dynamic region from reaching its full potential.

    We are adding new lanes
    to Interstate 66, which will allow 70,000 more people to move through the
    corridor each day. We are finally putting an end to the wheel-spinning that has
    kept this much-needed project from moving forward.

    I know there has been a
    lot of misleading information about this issue, but the facts are clear: After
    years of inaction, commuters will now have new options that will ease
    congestion without imposing new tolls on drivers for getting to work the same
    way that they always have.

    And it is just one of
    the steps we have taken to unlock the Northern Virginia region. We are making
    life better for commuters by extending the 395 HOT Lanes North to the district
    line, extending the southbound lanes two miles to clear backups in Stafford
    County and continuing to support the Silver Line to Dulles and other locations
    in Loudoun.”

    Ethics reform: “As you
    know, it took a lot of hard work to reach agreement on ethics reform last year
    – but we got it done. And now that the ban on gifts exceeding $100 has taken
    effect, our constituents can feel more confident that we are acting in their
    best interests.

    To build on this
    important work, we are proposing campaign finance reforms that would prohibit
    legislators from fundraising during the veto session and special sessions.

    As I did with the gift
    ban, I will lead by example and introduce legislation that would ban
    fundraising by governors during the period when they are reviewing bills for
    approval or veto.

    And finally, we are
    introducing legislation to prohibit the personal use of campaign funds. These
    are significant steps we can take together to send a clear message to
    Virginians that we are using the offices they’ve entrusted to us for one
    purpose alone: Making their lives better.

    Transparency and
    accountability are key to keeping elected officials connected with the people
    we serve. And so is ensuring that every Virginian who is qualified to vote has
    the opportunity to do so as soon as possible.”

    Fundamental Rights: “Some
    of the most meaningful moments in my two years as Governor have been the times
    when I have restored the civil rights of men and women, many of whom have
    struggled for years to reach that goal.

    We have knocked down
    barrier after barrier, reducing the waiting period, shortening the application
    forms, eliminating fees and spreading the word that we welcome you and we want
    you to succeed.

    Secretary Levar Stoney
    and his team have done an amazing job, and I am proud to announce tonight that
    a record 16,000 Virginians have now had their rights restored since I took
    office. This is more than the last three governors combined over their full
    four-year terms.”

    “… I will not hesitate
    to veto legislation that I believe harms those important goals. Specifically, I
    am prepared to veto bills that roll back the progress that we have made on
    marriage equality and women’s access to health care.”
    Public safety: “We
    depend on these (police) men and women to be there in a crisis, and they depend
    on us to provide them with adequate resources and to establish commonsense
    policies in support of public safety.

    That is why I stood with
    the leaders of the Virginia State Police, sheriffs and police chiefs to
    announce our Executive Order 50, designed to better enforce gun laws that are
    already on the books.

    I am pleased that
    Attorney General Mark Herring and Secretary Brian Moran are chairing our Joint
    Strike Force to Prosecute Gun Crimes.

    It is my hope that we
    can work together on reasonable solutions that will save lives.”

    Supreme Court
    “Even more important, I do hope that we will treat our newest
    Supreme Court justice with the respect that she deserves as a jurist who has
    served our Commonwealth with honor for 22 years.”
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