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Gov. Glenn Youngkin Finds Areas of Agreement in Annual SotC

A woman with long, dark hair, wearing a suit jacket interviews and man wearing glasses. They are standing in front of a statue of George Washington at the Virginia State Capitol.
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Gov. Youngkin highlights areas to “work together” with Democrats says University of Richmond Law Professor Henry Chambers after the annual State of the Commonwealth address. 

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin delivered his second annual State of the Commonwealth address at the capitol in Richmond to begin the 2024 legislative session.

The governor outlined his priorities for the year. Some of his key initiatives include tax relief for Virginians, and investments in education and the state’s behavioral health system.

Youngkin also spoke about the plan to build a professional sports arena in Northern Virginia. It’s a tentative $2 billion deal that would move the Washington Wizards and the Washington Capitals to Alexandria. The governor says this will generate $12 billion in economic growth and 30,000 new jobs in Virginia.

The governor’s legislative agenda faces new hurdles this session after Democrats gained control of the House of Delegates and maintained control of Virginia's Senate during the 2023 elections.

University of Richmond Law Professor Henry Chambers was at the capitol for the governor’s speech and discusses some of the speech’s highlights.


KEYRIS MANZANARES: This is a VPM special coverage of the 2024 State of the Commonwealth address for VPM News, I'm Keyris Manzanares. Now I am joined by Henry Chambers, University of Richmond Law Professor. Henry, how would you describe the spirit and tone of Governor Youngkin's address?

HENRY CHAMBERS: It's a great question. The spirit was working together. The tone was pretty strong, but the tone was not confrontational. Indeed, I think it's fair to say that this is a speech that was very different in tone and substance than it would've been had the elections gone a little bit differently a couple months ago.

And what were some of the big takeaways for you from the speech?

The governor seems to want to work with folks. Now what he didn't do was provide a whole lot of detail, but he provided principles that I think most folks can get behind. Some of them were going to be a little controversial, but many of them were generalized suggestions of how we can get along and make Virginia a better place to live.

As we know, Democrats have the majority in this general assembly session. How do you expect the governor and Republicans to work together with Democrats to try to get some bills passed?

It's going to be very interesting. As they say, the devil's in the details. Sometimes they say the god's in the details, but getting to those details will be the big issue. Like we say on general issues, there may be some agreement, not a whole lot of folks love the car tax, although some people can live with the car tax. But if one wants to get rid of it, for example, or even lessen it, you're going to have to work hard with democratic legislators to figure out where will the money come from to deal with those particular issues at the state and local levels. So there's going to have to be a lot of work, a lot of talking, which quite frankly is exactly how government is supposed to work. Lots of talking among those who share power.

And when it comes to the arena plan, what can Virginians expect?

A lot of hard fighting. There'll be a lot of interesting messaging that goes with that one. The governor's position is that state money is not going into the plan. Of course, other folks have argued, well, if you're going to allow tax dollars to go into the plan, then that's state money going into the plan. So there'll be a lot of fighting, a lot of messaging. And one of the questions will be, how much will Virginians give up by having the arena versus how much will they gain by having the arena? It's going to be tough, tough conversations as we've already seen with what the governor has said and what Senator Lucas said a couple weeks ago.

And what bills are you particularly looking at this general assembly?

It's going to be very interesting to see a couple of bills. There's a legacy admissions bill, believe it or not, that's out there that's interesting, which is a response to some of what the Supreme Court did on affirmative action. There are going to be some pushes in order to roll back felon disfranchisement and to think about how to restore rights. So that suggestion of a constitutional amendment will be out there. And of course, everything surrounding the budget will be a very, very big deal. Lots to watch.

Yes, and you know, like Youngkin said, this is the halftime of his term. How do you think he's looking to define his legacy here?

That's a great question. The sports metaphors always get us going. He knows that he's a one-term governor. As a consequence, he wants his legacy to be getting things done. So he suggested he wants to work hard with Democrats. We'll see whether Democrats meet him halfway or maybe require that he move it a little further in their direction. But it should be a very interesting session.

Thank you. Thank you, Henry. And we want to thank you for joining us for this special coverage of the 2024 State of the Commonwealth Address. For more coverage of the general assembly session, head to For VPM News I'm Keyris Manzanares.