Virginia Legislature Continues Working On Bills As Scandals Engulf Top Offices The Virginia State Capitol operated as if it were business as usual Tuesday, despite dueling scandals engulfing the governor and his lieutenant.

Virginia Legislature Continues Working On Bills As Scandals Engulf Top Offices

Virginia Legislature Continues Working On Bills As Scandals Engulf Top Offices

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The Virginia State Capitol operated as if it were business as usual Tuesday, despite dueling scandals engulfing the governor and his lieutenant.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

To Virginia now, where Governor Ralph Northam is still governor. He has been under intense pressure to resign since a racist photo in his medical school yearbook became public last Friday. And complicating things now, his lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax, is dealing with a scandal of his own.

Reporter Ben Paviour of member station WCVE in Richmond has been at the capital today. He joins us now. Hey there, Ben.

BEN PAVIOUR, BYLINE: Hi.

KELLY: So the legislature is in session today. What is the scene there in Richmond?

PAVIOUR: Well, you know, it's really business as usual. There was a lot of talk of tax legislation, some debate around distracted-driving bills, that kind of thing.

KELLY: Really? This isn't all, like, anybody in the Capitol quarters is talking about?

PAVIOUR: Oh, I mean, there's camera crews everywhere. People are definitely talking about it. But if you go into the chambers, you'll really just see, yeah, business as usual. People are eating lunch at their desk and, you know, debating whether we should be driving with cellphones in our hands, that kind of thing.

KELLY: Now, meanwhile, I mentioned the intense pressure on Governor Northam to step down. That's coming from Republicans, from Democrats, from inside Virginia, from all over the country. If Governor Northam keeps refusing to do so - refusing to step aside - where do things go from here?

PAVIOUR: Well, you know, the lawmakers I've talked to are saying that - you know, they're just waiting this out mostly. The Democratic caucus is deferring to the Black Caucus, and they're still saying they just want Northam to step down. Republicans don't really want to get involved in this - you know, not really their business as far as they're concerned. And no one's really talking about impeachment. They think that's sort of a step too far.

KELLY: So no legislative measures on the table at this point - people waiting to see how it plays out. Now, meanwhile, let me turn you to Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax. We mentioned he's facing his own scandal. He came out yesterday, faced a wall of reporters and denied an allegation of sexual assault. What is the latest on that?

PAVIOUR: Well, NPR learned this morning that the accuser, who we're not naming, has hired a lawyer by the name of Debra Katz. You're going to remember that she represented Christine Blasey Ford...

KELLY: Yeah.

PAVIOUR: ...Who accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings in the Senate. But outside of that, the accuser hasn't made any public comment. And the lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax, who would be next in line if Northam steps down, has denied those allegations. And he was presiding over the state Senate as he always does here. And, again, it was business as usual. He was up there. He even cracked a few jokes - pretty jovial spirits.

KELLY: Really - cracking jokes today?

PAVIOUR: Yeah, yeah. We - and I've asked a few Democrats about it. And, you know, they say they're too busy to really comment. Except the Democratic Party of Virginia did chime in on those allegations just very recently. And they said they should be taken with, quote, unquote, "profound gravity."

KELLY: Ben Paviour, thanks so much.

PAVIOUR: Thank you.

KELLY: That's Ben Paviour from member station WCVE in Richmond, Va.

(SOUNDBITE OF ELIOT LIPP'S "I TOLD YA")

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