Southside Virginia is home to one of the nation’s largest known uranium deposits, and the General Assembly will consider legislation to lift a 30-year ban on mining the radioactive element. McDonnell has not taken a position, but he has said that he would be in favor of mining if it could be done safely. The issue has gotten trickier, as Republican legislators from the region have come out against it. Bolling, a member of McDonnell’s cabinet who has been mulling over an independent run for governor, has voiced opposition.
During Wednesday night’s speech, McDonnell asked lawmakers to reward teachers with a 2 percent raise but also hold schools more accountable when they underperform.
He seemed to be making overtures to at least some Democrats with certain aspects of his transportation plan, which calls for eliminating the gas tax, raising the sales tax and hiking some car fees.
Even as he proposed taking more sales tax revenue for roads — something Democrats have staunchly opposed in the past — the governor vowed to devote the first $300 million to extend Metrorail to Dulles, a priority for Northern Virginia Democrats.
“He’s going down swinging in his last year, and I hope we connect with something,” said Jeffrey L. McWaters (R-Virginia Beach), praising him for wading into transportation.
McDonnell’s long list of priorities for the 45-day session is matched by a large and eclectic mix of legislation brought forth by the state’s 140 legislators.
Among the bills filed are proposals to arm teachers, expand Medicaid, curtail union rights, thwart an “Obamacare” mandate related to contraceptive coverage and amend the state constitution to allow Virginia governors, who are barred from serving successive terms, to succeed themselves.
“This could be a . . . roller coaster of a session,” said Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington).
But it was a smooth ride on opening day.
About the only hiccup came when a delegation from the House and Senate was dispatched to tell McDonnell that the chambers had been “duly organized” and were ready to get to work.
When the legislators arrived at McDonnell’s Capitol office, they met a locked door.
Apparently, no one had notified the governor that he was being notified. The delegation was left standing in the hall outside for about 10 minutes.
“I didn’t expect you to be organized so fast,” McDonnell told the group when he finally appeared.