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General Assembly to finalize legislation, allegations against former Governor Douglas Wilder, and more

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Jeff Schapiro from the Richmond Times-Dispatch joins WCVE News Director Craig Carper for this week's political analysis. Topics include the return of the General Assembly to finalize legislation, sexual harassment allegations against former Governor Douglas Wilder, and former Governor Terry McAuliffe's potential presidential run.

CC: From WCVE News in Richmond, I'm Craig Carper. Joining me now from the Richmond Times-Dispatch is political columnist and WCVE’s political analyst, Jeff Shapiro. Jeff, this Wednesday, this coming Wednesday, the General Assembly will return to put finishing touches on a mountain of legislation passed during a particularly grueling General Assembly session.

JS: The legislature sent Governor Northam about 880 bills, 17 of which he vetoed. I will get into that. The governor is proposing a number of amendments, revisions, tweaks to some of the bills that were sent to him. That includes about 40, actually precisely 40, for the state budget, and some of them are big amendments. So for example, the governor wants to expand the pool of low-income Virginians eligible for tax breaks. This was an issue in which he lost traffic, excuse me, lost traction whence that blackface scandal erupted. The governor also wants to make it easier to reinstate the driver's licenses of those who'd been stripped of their driving privileges for not paying fines and penalties. This is a measure that has a racial dimension as well. And then there's this big, big development, and that is some new financing mechanisms for highway improvements, primarily along Interstate 81, along the mountainous western spine of the state, but pretty much all around Virginia, and in a word it comes down to taxes. This is a chance for the governor as well to really emphasize governing, and this is supposed to be the remedy for this distraction that has been boiling now for a couple of months. We've seen him during bill review, as this 30-day process was formerly called, doubling down on racial equity. So those bills that he vetoed, it included a Republican-written bill that would tighten the election day ID requirements for voters. He is interested, of course, in throwing around some money. We need, we should not overlook that it includes financing to replace Central State Hospital. This is the oldest mental hospital in the state, and it was the first to serve African Americans. The governor, as well, wants to make it easier for minority companies to get a bigger share of state business. Now Republicans sensing that Northam’s difficulties are good news for them, particularly in defending their shrinking majorities, are still doing what they can to call attention to these embarrassments for Democrats. The Republican Party of Virginia the other day called the governor, Governor Blackface. And they have been raising some discomforting questions, some quite legitimate, including, you know, what's going on with this investigation that the governor was conducting into those racist yearbook photos. One thing that I think has been really interesting - we have seen the Democrats who had called for Northam’s resignation suddenly cluster around him. They seem to welcome his signature on their bills and the amendments to others. And I think we're seeing, as well, increasing staff-level contacts, and that all seems to have one purpose in mind - getting everyone on the same page for the November House and Senate elections.

CC: And former Governor L. Douglas Wilder, 88 year old former governor, first elected black governor in the country, is in the middle of a #metoo moment with a 22 year old VCU student who had worked at the school named after him.

JS: Personal, professional, and political controversy is nothing new for our former governor and former mayor. And it seems that at VCU the governor is redefining havoc. In this instance, this is a particularly discomforting issue for the governor coming very late in a career in which he remains quite active. The accuser, who worked with the governor at the Wilder School, says that he made a pass at her, that he offered to house her, offered to travel abroad with her, offered to finance her law school education. She has turned to the police. The governor and VCU are absolutely silent on this. Clearly this recalls a sexual harassment problem facing another black politician, Justin Fairfax, who wants to become the second African American governor of Virginia, behind Wilder, of course, who was the nation's first.

CC: Just about 30 seconds left, but there's a self-imposed deadline that Terry McAuliffe, former Governor Terry McAuliffe, is quickly approaching on Sunday for a decision on his presidential ambitions.

JS: And we talked about this last week. Again, it's not clear what McAuliffe's path would be, especially with the expected entry of Joe Biden. If McAuliffe makes this run, he'd be the third Virginia governor since Doug Wilder to seek the, the presidency. Wilder was only briefly a candidate. Jim Gilmore twice ran. Mark Warner never formally announced, but he tested the waters ahead of the ’08 cycle.

CC: Thanks to Jeff Schapiro, political columnist at the Richmond Times- Dispatch. Jeff, we will catch up again in two weeks.

JS: Enjoy your break.

CC: Thanks.

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