Questions and Concerns Voiced to McDonnell at Town Hall Meeting

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Gov. Bob McDonnell hosted a nearly two-hour town hall meeting in Harrisonburg Thursday night.

Though there were moments of disagreement, overall people seemed to be happy just to have the chance to ask questions of Virginia's leader.

More than 350 people attended the meeting, and some, like President of the Virginia Poultry Federation Hobey Bauhan, were there to voice concerns.

"Now the issue I wanted to address is the efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay," said Bauhan to the Governor.

He is concerned about federal legislation he says would increase the Environmental Protection Agency's power over the agriculture industry.

Bauhan said he's all for cleaning up the bay but disagreed with the legislation.

"[We should do it] in a way that balances the improvements we're going to continue to get in our water quality with a sensible economic policy as well," addsedBauhaus.

After listening to Bauhan's concerns, McDonnell said he agreed.

"Business concerns, economic concerns and environmental concerns can coexist, and solutions can be found together. You don't have to pick one over the other," responded McDonnell.

McDonnell said he supports another bill sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte that would clean up the bay without endangering jobs.

"Particularly in this economy, that balanced approach with the Goodlatte bill is the way to go," added McDonnell.

He did acknowledge that the bay was a problem and agriculture a contributor to that problem.

"We do need to do a better job overall maybe with agriculture best management practices," commented McDonnell.

However, agriculture was just one topic touched on during the meeting. Many asked the governor questions about privatizing the ABC stores in Virginia.

McDonnell is in favor of doing so and did win a few people over to his side at the meeting with his explanation of how privatization would work.

However, others remained opposed to the privatization, saying it would encourage binge drinking and increase alcohol-related violations.

McDonnell responded to the criticisms of a beer distributor that spoke in opposition by citing a statistic that found 80 percent of DUIs were a result of too much beer or wine, not hard liquor.

Another issue McDonnell encountered some contention on was immigration. Prior to the meeting, a group of protesters gathered to express their outrage over McDonnell's proposal to let Virginia State Police troopers start enforcing federal immigration laws.

The protesters say it would encourage racial profiling.

They asked McDonnell about his stance on immigration reform at the meeting.

"Would you support legislation such as the Dream Act so that young people like myself can work legally, so that we can use our degrees," asked Dream Act advocate Isabel Castillo.

Though McDonnell commended Castillo for her accomplishments, he said he was unable to support her cause.

"What I can't do and what we can't do as Americans is to be able to turn a blind eye and not enforce the rule of law, if you've got to be legal to be here," responded McDonnell.

He went on to say the federal government is responsible for the current immigration crisis, and he is in support of comprehensive immigration reform.