Final Week at the General Assembly: Gearing Up for Election 2017

Feb 23, 2017

 

House speaker William Howell, R-Stafford, left, and House minority leader, Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, together in Richmond in 2015. Cox has been selected by his fellow Republicans to replace Howell as Speaker after he steps down.
Credit Steve Helber / AP

Lawmakers in Richmond are about to put the finishing touches on a lightning-fast General Assembly session, seeming a bit like it's over before it really began. RadioIQ host spoke with reporter Michael Pope to break it all down.

 


 

Interview hightlights: 

Church: OK, so the biggest news of the week is undoubtedly the announcement that longtime Republican Speaker Bill Howell will not be running for reelection. What’s happening there?

 

Pope: He made a heartfelt speech to members of the House of Delegates, followed by hours of tributes to the the speaker, both Republicans and Democrats giving speeches. Here's Howell announcing his resignation with some of the signature wit he’s known for: 

 

“I have really enjoyed serving in this esteemed body, the House of Delegates for nearly 30 years. It’s really been a distinct privilege. And serving in as Speaker of the House for almost 15 years has truly been the greatest professional honor of my life. So you can imagine my surprise what I read in the paper this morning..." 

 

Pope: Now the speaker probably wanted to make the announcement himself, but Richmond has really been buzzing about this since the session began, especially the parlor game to who becomes the next speaker. The new Speaker is Kirk Cox...

 

Church: So who is Kirk Cox?

 

Pope: He is a former teacher first elected 1990, when Democrats were in power...He's known as a mainstream conservative, not a bomb thrower, not divisive. I asked him about the GOP agenda this year, introducing bills they know the Governor has already vetoed - and will likely veto again:

"Those bills are a miniscule part of what we do...one of the things - and I've challenged the governor on this - I'd like to see him to is maybe instead of emphasizing so much what he's vetoing, he'll tell us what he's for." 

Church: Has the governor told us what he is for?

Pope: Well, Democrats would say yes, McAuliffe most certainly has told us what he's for over and over again. Access to abortion rights, restrictions on guns, economic development. But McAuliffe isn't running again. He can't, because of Virginia's restriction. And his handpicked replacement is current Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam who is in a primary challenge with [former] Democratic Congressman Tom Perriello. I asked the Lieutenant Governor about the number of vetoes the governor is making - he's about to break the all-time record on vetoes - a record previously held by Governor Jim Gilmore. I asked Northam about why he was making so many vetoes - and he began by listing things the governor just will not stand for:

"Discrimination against immigrants, discrimination against the LGBT community, discriminating against women's access to healthcare. He has made it perfectly clear that those are not in the best interest of Virginia's economy and he is going to veto them."

Church: So, the lawmakers head back to their district - but they're not quite done yet, right?

Pope: Right, they'll be back in April for what they call a veto session. The governor gets to make amendments and the General Assembly will consider the amendments and rejects some of them...and accept some of them.