See below for video of this month’s “Ask the Governor” show on WTOP, plus highlights…
- Question on marijuana…any changes coming? Northam says we’ve made a lot of progress on the use of medical marijuana, thinks first step is to decriminalize marijuana so we can do studies on it. Says he’s never been a proponent for legalizing marijuana, but IS for decriminalizing it – the last place we want people who use marijuana is in jail.
- Question on raising the tobacco purchasing age to 21. “We have a problem, especially at high schools.” Moving the legal age from 18 to 21 will help to alleviate the problem with high school kids starting smoking. How about raising tobacco taxes? Northam said he’d be more than willing to discuss that, because we all end up paying for the medical care of people who use tobacco products.
- On bills allowing more gambling in Virginia, Northam said there are “a lot of questions…about regulatory oversight…financial arrangements, how much is the state going to receive…a social impact…and a lot of unintended consequences.” He favors a study so if we move forward on this, it will be done in a responsible manner, possibly in the 2020 General Assembly session.
- Question about why Northam vetoed a bill permitting guns in churches. Northam says “I guess we have a difference of opinion,” doesn’t think firearms are needed in churches. “This whole proliferation of guns is not the direction I want to see Virginia go in.” “We lost 1,028 Virginians this past year to gun-related accidents.” Good answer.
- Question on abortion, and specifically the “very contentious” committee hearing the other day, where Del. Kathy Tran was pressed by Del. Todd Gilbert about whether her bill would permit an abortion at 40 weeks. Gov. Northam says he wasn’t there and can’t speak for Del. Tran, but that “this is why decisions such as this should be made by…physicians and the mothers and fathers that are involved.” Also notes that third-trimester abortions are done when there are cases where there are severe deformities and/or fetus is non viable. “This was really blown out of proportion.” “We want the government not to be involved in these types of decisions…legislators, most of whom are men by the way, shouldn’t be telling women what they can and can’t do with their bodies.” “These decisions shouldn’t be taken lightly,” would certainly support “more than one provider” being involved in these decisions.
- On the I-66 tolls, Northam recommends that people take transit or carpool.
- Northam says he’s not proposing to hike anyone’s taxes, simply responding to what Republicans did at the federal level. Northam’s plan is about conformity and what to do with the revenues. The House Republicans’ numbers don’t add up. “My door is open, I’m willing to sit down…people haven’t even started talking about the budget yet” and we’re almost halfway through session.
- Northam says we have to pay teachers more “if we want to recruit and retain talented teachers.” Hopes that come July, teachers will receive a 5% raise (a 3% raise is already a “done deal,” just need the other 2%), highest in 15 years. Also, another $260 million investment in K-12 education in his proposed budget, and he hopes the legislature follows through.
- Northam says he supports Sen. Warner’s “Stop STUPIDITY Act” on preventing future government shutdowns. “I support
@MarkWarner’s legislation to ensure this never happens again. Most people live paycheck to paycheck. We cannot do this again. Obviously states want to help those impacted but I would want to reinforce to Congress and the president: do not use federal workers as pawns again.”
- “We have about 130,000 federal employees who live in Virginia, about 64,000 of whom were impacted by this federal shutdown. It’s a shame they were used as pawns in this disagreement. No excuse, for no good reason. These were TSA agents, members of our Coast Guard—you want to talk about impact, they were keeping us safe without receiving their paychecks.”
- “Anything we can do to alleviate congestion, we’re moving in that direction. This is $1 billion of transportation investments announced yesterday to make more progress.”
- Northam: “Our goal is to move goods and people as efficiently and effectively as we can, and the four transportation projects we announced yesterday will help us do that.”