Gov. Northam delivers State of the Commonwealth address amid COVID-19 pandemic

Virginia Republicans offer up their own agenda this session

Gov. Northam delivers State of the Commonwealth address amid COVID-19 pandemic

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Governor Ralph Northam has a lot of things to get done in his final year, and the fallout from COVID-19 will dominate a lot of that time but the governor also has his sights on other priorities.

Inside a near-empty Virginia Statehouse on Wednesday, Northam says the plan to get COVID-19 vaccines into the arms of the elderly is now speeding up.

“They authorized states to go ahead and start vaccinating people age 65 and up. We’ll be moving forward with that quickly—I’ll be talking to local health directors and hospitals tomorrow about how we make this happen,” Northam said.

Northam and Democrats - in complete control - will push hard this year to legalize marijuana, but the proposed two-year plan means that wouldn’t be a reality until 2023.

Northam is also pushing to end the death penalty and make restoring civil rights for felons an automatic process.

“If we want people to return to their communities and participate in society, we need to welcome them back fully. It’s wrong to keep punishing people forever. This is the right thing to do,” Northam said.

State Republicans led by Del. Kirk Cox (R) 66th District, who is seeking that party’s nomination to run for governor, pounced on Northam’s handling of the COVID crisis and a slower than expected vaccine rollout.

“This is not the only critical area where Virginia failed to live up to its once-coveted status as America’s best-managed state. Thousands of Virginians have had to wait endlessly to receive unemployment benefits, unnecessarily extending their hardship,” Cox said.

This session, GOP lawmakers are working on legislation to get students back in the classroom and to change absentee voting laws.

“By adopting common-sense policies that open our schools, strengthen our economy, and protect our citizens, we can become a national leader once again,” Sen. John Cosgrove, (R) 14th District said.

Northam is expected to provide more details about the plan to vaccinate the elderly during a COVID-19 briefing Thursday afternoon.

Watch the address below:

Gov. Northam delivers State of the Commonwealth address

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