RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Gov. Bob McDonnell is using his annual address to the state to make one big, last push for a lasting legislative legacy, urging lawmakers to embrace his education and transportation reforms.
He also threw in a surprise Wednesday, asking the lawmakers to approve bills that allow nonviolent felons' civil rights to be automatically restored.
McDonnell already has sketched out reforms that condition a 2 percent raise for teachers on new laws making underperforming faculty easier to fire, and his plan to replace Virginia's 17Â½-cents-per-gallon gasoline tax with a sales tax increase to replenish dwindling road maintenance funds.
McDonnell also asks legislators to establish a process to restore rights to vote, serve on a jury and other privileges people forfeit for felony convictions. Only the governor can restore those rights now.
You can read McDonnell's entire speech here.
Del. David Toscano, a Democrat from Charlottesville, gave the Democratic response to McDonnell's speech. He agreed with many of the governor's proposals, and said the party was willing to discuss the governor's ideas on transportation.
But he blamed Republicans for not giving enough money to public education during McDonnell's term.
"During the last several years, the unfortunate response to our educational challenges from some of our Republican colleagues is to propose further cuts in K-12 funding, while providing more resources for private schools," said Toscano. "In the Democratic view, that is the wrong way to go."
Toscano said several times during his speech that Democrats are willing to reach across the aisle and work with Republicans during the General Assembly session.
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