Virginia legislators called for respect and civility across the aisle just hours ahead of the 2020 Virginia General Assembly session.
Several prominent figures spoke at the 54th Commonwealth Prayer Breakfast held Wednesday at the Greater Richmond Convention Center, including Gov. Ralph Northam, Chief Judge Roger Gregory of the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals and Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. The Commonwealth Prayer Breakfast is an annual gathering for Virginia politicians and community members to share a meal and prayers.
Many of the speakers reflected on the need for compassion and understanding toward one another and to consider the impact the legislation proposed this session will have on Virginians. Qarni said that the upcoming session will have contentious moments, but called on citizens and legislators not to “demonize” one another or rush to conclusions. He said that the country is deeply divided.
“We are worried about war. We are worried about impeachment. We are worried about the future,” Qarni said in a speech shared with CNS after the event. “The world is a scary place right now. We are plagued with fears. But we must have faith, not just in our creator but in each other.”
Northam spoke last, urging the freshman and veteran legislators present to remember that the General Assembly is built on relationships and that public visibility and scrutiny of this legislative session will be significant.
“How we speak of and to each other will be heard well beyond the gates of Capitol Square,” Northam said.
Gregory preceded Northam with a similar sentiment, placing the responsibility for civility in the hands of the politicians.
“Legislators,” Gregory said, “You have a big job and an important job.”
The General Assembly convened at noon on Wednesday. This session marks the first time in more than two decades that Democrats have control over the General Assembly and the governorship. Democratic leaders announced Tuesday an 11-point, legislative “Virginia 2020 Plan” that includes gun control measures, minimum wage increase, LGBT protections and increased education spending.
“We are presenting an agenda that is different from every previous General Assembly session,” Northam said in a press release unveiling the agenda. “It’s more forward looking than ever before, and it reflects what Virginians sent us here to do.”
Conor Lobb / Capital News Service