In a Wednesday tweet, Speaker of the House Todd Gilbert blasted Governor Ralph Northam’s final State of the Commonwealth address, leading House Minority Leader Eileen Filler-Corn to respond in a floor statement on Thursday.
“Ralph Northam is leaving office as his own lost cause, condescendingly lecturing us all from some assumed moral high ground because he read the book ‘Roots’ and then went on a non-stop reconciliation tour. Saturday can’t come fast enough,” Gilbert wrote.
“Yesterday, Mr. Speaker, you took an oath, an oath to be Speaker for all Virginians. An oath that I have been extremely honored and privileged to take myself, and a privilege given to so very few. And I am disappointed to say, Speaker Gilbert, that yesterday, your words on Twitter, written during the governor’s speech, did not live up to that oath. The truth is, Mr. Speaker, people are pained by the words you put out yesterday,” Filler-Corn said, calling Gilbert’s words reprehensible.
“Unfortunately, there are some that are okay with what was said. There are people that actually believe it, but that does not make it right,” she said.
In a morning press conference, outgoing Attorney General Mark Herring announced that he was overturning 58 Jim Crow-era opinions from previous attorneys general.
“Between 1904 and 1967, Virginia attorneys general issued at least 58 opinions that either applied or interpreted racially discriminatory state laws, including laws that imposed poll taxes and other racial restrictions on voting; prohibited interracial marriage; mandated segregation in public schools; and established Jim Crow-style segregation in public transportation, places of public accommodation, and other social spaces,” a Herring press release explains.
Herring said in the release, “While these discriminatory and racists laws are no longer on the books in Virginia, the opinions still are, which is why I am proud to overrule them today. We are not the Virginia we used to be, and in order to truly be the Virginia that we want to be in the future we need to remove any last vestiges of these racist laws.”
“During the dark days of Jim Crow and Massive Resistance, the Attorney General was more often an opponent to be defeated rather than a friend to be counted on; a guardian of an inequitable status quo, rather than the rights of his constituents,” Senator Mamie Locke (D-Hampton) said. “We have come such a long way as a Commonwealth, and I believe we have been so lucky to have an attorney general for the last eight years who put the protection and expansion of Virginians’ civil rights at the center of his work and at the heart of his mission.”
Herring has been issuing a series of opinions on potential Republican policy and with an eye to his own legacy.
Senator Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax) held a press conference to announce his SB 376, which if passed will create a prescription drug oversight board. The board would conduct affordability reviews of drugs, and requires health plans and programs to comply with limits established by the board.
The Senate Education and Health Committee met at 8 a.m. The committee was scheduled to hear Senator Amanda Chase’s (R-Chesterfield) SB 73, which protects health care providers who prescribe hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin for COVID-19.
Chase was not present, prompting Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw (D-Fairfax) to move for the bill to be passed by indefinitely, but Senator Steve Newman (R-Bedford) suggested instead that they just pass by it for the day, allowing the bill to be considered in the future.
“Just to keep everything cool,” Newman said as someone off camera said “This is nuts!”
Chase’s Legislative Aide Shayne Snavely told The Virginia Star that Senate staff hadn’t properly followed normal notification procedures on Wednesday due to the busy beginning of the session and a shortage of legislative staff that was impacting several legislators.
Snavely said the bill will be brought back up in an upcoming Education and Health Committee.
Youngkin’s Transportation Secretary-designee Shep Miller spoke to the House Transportation Committee.
“One, I want to assure you that I’m going to execute on Governor Youngkin’s Day One Game Plan, and work with the governor-elect and all of you to invest in transportation priorities that jump-start jobs and keep people moving in every corner of our Commonwealth,” Miller said.
Miller said continued investment in transportation could be done even while lowering the impact to Virginians of the fuel tax.
On Sunday, the day after Youngkin’s administration takes office, Virginia is expected to face another winter storm. The last winter storm snarled a section of I-95, causing Virginians to question why Virginia’s transportation agencies and the Northam administration weren’t better prepared.
Miller warned legislators about the impact of the upcoming storm.
“Saturday night, it could be ugly, and by that I mean we could get a lot of snow. We are laser-focused on making sure we can deal with that. So, we’re working with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and all sorts of other agencies. We’re meeting, we’re talking, we’re doing everything that we can to make sure that we keep our roads safe, that we keep them open, and the we keep commerce safe and the citizens being able to get from place to place,” Miller said.
“But it looks like come Saturday night, it’s going to be a nice surprise, a nice welcome from the dear Lord to our new governor on his first night after being inaugurated,” he said.
– – –
Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Eileen Filler-Corn” by Eileen Filler-Corn and photo “Capitol of the Commonwealth of Virginia” by Ron Cogswell CC BY 2.0.