Congressmen Dave Brat and Rob Wittman with Delegate Mark Cole
It is my honor to represent the citizens of the 88th District in the Virginia House of Delegates. The House of Delegates is one half of the Virginia General Assembly, the other half being the Virginia Senate. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or concerns about legislation or issues before the General Assembly. If you would like to visit the Capitol in Richmond, please call my office so that we may set-up a tour and assist with your visit. I look forward to hearing from you!
January 14, 2018
The 2018 General Assembly session has officially begun! This year will be a long session (60 days) as we have to develop a new biennial budget, as well as dealing with a wide range of legislative proposals aimed at creating jobs, lowering healthcare costs, improving transportation, and creating more educational opportunities.
The House was gaveled into session on Wednesday, January 10th at 12 noon and is scheduled to continue through early March. Our first order of business was electing a new Speaker of the House, as you may know, our long time Speaker Bill Howell has retired. My colleagues and I unanimously elected Delegate Kirk Cox as the 55th Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates.
Speaker Cox set a clear tone for the 2018 session, pledging to focus on government, work across the aisle, and lead with character and integrity.
The Speaker also made committee assignments for the session. I was reappointed as Chairman of the Privileges and Elections Committee, as well as a member of the Finance and Education Committees.
STATE OF THE COMMONWEALTH
Later that evening, Governor McAuliffe delivered his final State of the Commonwealth Address. Newly elected Governor Northam was sworn in on Saturday and will be addressing the General Assembly to share his vision this week.
I was selected as the “designated survivor” for the State of the Commonwealth speech. Every year a senior member of the General Assembly is taken by the Capitol Police to a secure location during the speech. This is to provide continuity of government should a catastrophe occur during the speech. Fortunately, nothing bad happened, so I will not be the inspiration for a new TV show.
After many decades of service, the old General Assembly Building is being torn down. Our offices have been relocated to the Pocahontas Building, 900 East Main Street, Richmond, Virginia 23219 (across the street from the main entrance of the Capitol on Bank Street). My office is Room 202.
Unfortunately, the new building does not have the space that the old GAB had, so we will not be hosting our annual open house at the Capitol. However, you are still welcome to come down for a visit and tour during session. If you would like to visit, please let me know so that we may schedule a tour. My office email and phone in Richmond are DelMCole@house.virginia.gov and (804) 698-1088.
January 8, 2018
Transportation continues to be a high priority, especially for our area. In recent years the General Assembly, spearheaded by the House of Delegates, had significantly increased transportation funding to try to address traffic issues. Here is a brief summary of some of our efforts to improve transportation.
In 2005, we increased transportation funding by more than $ 1.4 Billion, the largest increase in nearly 20 years, including $ 850 million in funding to reduce congestion on major thoroughfares like I-95. The following year, in 2006, an additional $ 568 million was directed to transportation.
During the 2007 session, the General Assembly financed largest transportation investment in two decades by providing nearly $ 500 million in ongoing, new transportation funding and authorizing $ 3 Billion in transportation bonds. In 2008 we restored $180 million in transportation funding that former Governor Kaine had diverted to other programs.
Soon after coming into office in 2010, Governor McDonnell ordered a performance audit of VDOT that revealed $1.4 billion in previously authorized funds that were not being spent on needed highway maintenance and new construction. These dollars were collected and redirected to long overdue transportation projects.
In 2011, we passed legislation to authorize nearly $4 billion in bond funding for transportation that jumpstarted over 900 projects around Virginia.
In 2013, the General Assembly passed a variety of fee and tax increases to raise over $ 1.3 Billion additional funds annually for transportation. Also, other fees and tax increases were imposed on Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads to raise funds for critical regional projects.
In 2016 we increased transportation funding by nearly $ 1 Billion. Total funding for transportation is $13.4 Billion over the biennium. We also passed my House Bill 97
which directs the Department of Transportation to conduct an evaluation with the Fredericksburg Area Metropolitan Planning Organization to address traffic congestion on the Interstate 95 in our area, with a goal towards reducing congestion on I95.
Our transportation problems are not just due to a lack of funding. A big part of the problem is all the bureaucratic hurdles that must be cleared before a road project can start. Not only do road projects have to go through VDOT in Richmond for approval, but Washington also gets involved in most projects. Major projects must be reviewed and approved by several Federal agencies such as the EPA, Army Corps of Engineers, and the Federal Highway Department. It can take years or even decades for a project to get all the approvals needed to proceed.