State of the Commonwealth Live Blog

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

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 kindling.

“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 cybersecurity.

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 communities.

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 accomplishments:

  • 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 project.

  • 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 appointment: “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.”