What to Know
Virginia begins a new chapter Saturday with the inauguration of Glenn Youngkin, the first Republican governor to take the oath of office in 12 years.
Youngkin will be sworn in as the commonwealth’s 74th governor at noon on the steps of the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond. You can watch the ceremony on NBCWashington.com and in the NBC Washington app.
Youngkin promised a change in direction in the state, with shifts on COVID-19 policies, education, criminal justice and taxes. A flurry of executive actions are expected not long after he’s sworn in. In an interview Friday, Youngkin said to expect action on Day One.
“We’re going to work tomorrow, and you’re going to see a lot of movement get started tomorrow,” he said. “We made a lot of commitments and we’re going to keep them.”
Here’s what to know about the ceremonies Saturday and Youngkin’s plans and policies for his term.
When Is the 2022 Virginia Governor’s Inauguration?
Youngkin will be sworn in on the steps of the Virginia State Capitol on Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022. The ceremonies are set to begin at noon, there will be a swearing-in ceremony and then Youngkin will start his tenure.
About 6,000 people are expected to attend the inauguration in very cold temperatures.
Tickets are required to attend the event on Capitol Square. Due to capacity restrictions, tickets were made available through a lottery and are no longer available. Ticket holders can enter the square starting at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Virginia Capitol Police said.
A traditional inaugural parade will kick off after the ceremony. Participants will include members of the Virginia National Guard, Virginia university and high school students, NASA representatives and law enforcement officers, according to Youngkin’s transition team.
A number of parking restrictions and street closures will be in effect in Richmond from 5 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, NBC12 reported.
What Other Inauguration Events Are Planned for Youngkin?
Youngkin, who emphasized his outsider status and Virginia roots during his run, planned a mix of high-dollar, exclusive events and public events. The inaugural weekend theme is “Strengthen the Spirit of Virginia Together.”
The first of Youngkin’s inaugural weekend events got underway Friday morning, when the governor-elect participated in a service event with local officials, helping landscape an area along the Richmond Slave Trail, a tribute to the critical role the city played in the domestic slave trade.
Who Else Is Inaugurated Saturday?
The positions of governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general will each be transferred from Democrats to Republicans. Winsome Sears will be sworn in as lieutenant governor and become the first woman of color to serve in the role. Jason Miyares will be sworn in as attorney general, making history as the first Latino in the position.
Governor Youngkin’s Plan for COVID
Youngkin said he will lift the state’s school mask mandate and change other COVID-19 policies after taking office. The change in direction is expected amid what the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association called the fifth surge of the pandemic.
Youngkin said in an interview Wednesday that Virginia would no longer require children to wear masks in schools.
“We’re gonna rescind the mandate that requires K-12 children to wear a mask to school, and we’ve been quite clear about that,” he told WTKR-TV in Norfolk, repeating a point he made while campaigning.
School districts will be able to keep mask recommendations in place, but parents can choose not to follow them, he added.
“The way that Virginia works is that the governor cannot ban mask mandates. Schools make those decisions,” he said. “We will in fact, then, also make sure that schools allow parents to exercise their rights for what’s best for their children, to opt-out of those mandates.”
Youngkin’s office did not respond to an inquiry about whether he will lift the K-12 mask mandate on his first day in office, or what he would tell parents who fear the policy change will spread the virus.
The incoming governor has promised a new approach to the pandemic. He has encouraged vaccination but opposed vaccine and mask mandates, emphasizing personal choice. Go here to see more reporting on his positions and plans on COVID.
Governor Youngkin’s Plan for Criminal Justice
Youngkin may usher in dramatic changes on criminal justice. He and incoming Attorney General Jason Miyares have adopted a “tough on crime” stance. The governor’s Day One plan on criminal justice includes “keeping violent criminals off our streets,” fully funding law enforcement, protecting qualified immunity for officers and firing the parole board.
Virginia political analyst Bob Holsworth said he expected “an absolute sea change” on criminal justice in Virginia, comparing Northam and former Attorney General Mark Herring’s objectives to those of Youngkin and Miyares.
Governor Youngkin’s Plan for Education
Youngkin has said he wants to be known as “The Education Governor.” His plan for Day One includes banning critical race theory, though it’s not part of any public school curriculum; “keeping schools open safely five days a week;” raising teacher pay; investing in special education and creating a least 20 new charter schools.
He has said he will respect teachers beliefs about LGBTQ issues, as well as require schools to have school resource officers.
Governor Youngkin’s Plan for Abortion
Youngkin is expected to tighten restrictions on abortion. He has called himself “pro-life” and indicated support for restricting the procedure after 20 weeks of pregnancy, according to Washington Post fact checkers.
His campaign website touted an endorsement by the anti-abortion rights group National Right to Life.
Holsworth said he expected to see Youngkin pursue abortion restrictions but face a challenge by the state Senate, which Democrats hold. Abortion will be “front and center” in Virginia, Holsworth said.
Governor Youngkin’s Plan for Taxes
Youngkin’s Day One includes eliminating the state’s grocery tax, requiring voter approval for property taxes and temporarily suspending an increase to the gas tax. Tax changes will need legislative approval.
The Tone of State Politics
Dr. Jatia Wrighten, a political science professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, said she expected to see a major change in the tone of state politics and messages coming out of the state capitol, with less emphasis on diversity and equity. She said she was discouraged to see state Republicans withhold applause this week as outgoing Gov. Ralph Northam spoke about measures to increase voter access.
Who Is Glenn Youngkin?
During his campaign Youngkin, a Republican business executive new to elected office, distanced himself from former President Donald Trump while still courting Trump supporters. He didn’t release detailed policy platforms like some candidates for elected office do.
“At this point, we don’t know much about Youngkin generally,” Wrighten said.
Youngkin will establish his political identity, Holsworth said.
“What kind of governor is he going to be? Is he going to be Ron DeSantis or Larry Hogan? So far, he’s said he’s said he’s going to be a mix,” he said.
Holsworth pointed to Youngkin’s plan to lift the school mask mandate and asked whether he would go as far as to threaten to withhold state funding from school districts that require masks, as DeSantis, Florida’s governor, did last year.
But Youngkin has also put distance between himself and former President Donald Trump, like Maryland’s Governor Larry Hogan.
How Much Support or Opposition Is Youngkin Expected to Face?
The strength of Youngkin’s mandate from voters is uncertain after he won the governorship by less than 2 points. Nearly half of the state’s voters in November chose Democrat Terry McAuliffe instead.
Youngkin faces a split legislature. Republicans gained control of the House of Delegates, but Democrats retained control of the state Senate, with a slim 21-19 majority. Sears, the lieutenant governor, will preside over the Senate and cast tie-breaking votes.
Youngkin and Virginia’s GOP will have to compromise with Democrats on some issues, Holsworth said.
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“It’s clear and reasonable for Republicans to be excited, but their success is going to be dependent on where they can build some alliances,” he said.
Still, State Republicans including Tim Parrish, chairman of the Prince William County Republicans, are thrilled by the prospect of what lies ahead.
“The governor had this mantra; he said he was going to make the commonwealth the very best place to live, work and raise a family. So I have this great, profound sense of hope that we are moving in that direction,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
This content was originally published here.