Delegate Mark Cole
P. O. Box 41965
Fredericksburg, VA 22404
(540) 786-3402
Delegate@MarkLCole.com

Paid for and authorized by Mark Cole for Delegate

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!

OPEN HOUSE
I would like to invite you, your family and your neighbors to spend the day with us at the General Assembly for our “Richmond Open House” on Monday, February 16 (President’s Day). There will be coffee and doughnuts in the morning along with an explanation of what we do here and afterwards, depending on your schedule, you are welcome to sit in on committee meetings, and attend Session.

We will be gathering from 9:30am to 11:00am in 8th Floor West Conference Room of the General Assembly Building which is located at the corner of 9th and Broad Streets in Richmond.

If you will be able to attend, please call my office at (804) 698-1088 or email me. If you are not able to attend on February 16, but would like to visit on another day, let me know and I will make arrangements.

January 21, 2015
LEGISLATION

Session is moving along very quickly. I wanted to take this opportunity to report to you some of the legislation I am sponsoring this session.

House Bill (HB) 1287 has gotten a fair amount of attention. It would require a criminal conviction before property used in connection with commission of a crime could be forfeited. Currently, no conviction is required before property can be seized and forfeited.

Asset forfeiture was implemented years ago with the intent of taking the profit out of crime. It allows law enforcement to seize property that was used in the commission of a crime or that may have been purchased with money from a crime, and then sell that property and use the money to supplement its budget.

While most Commonwealth’s Attorneys and Sheriffs use the program responsibly, there have been cases of abuse and not requiring a conviction makes it more likely that an innocent person could lose their property.

I call House Joint Resolution (HJ) 500 the “pass a budget or you’re fired act.” Last year we had the longest budget standoff in Virginia history and came very close to having the first state government shutdown in Virginia history. This proposed amendment to the state Constitution is to deal with this situation in the future.

If adopted, this Constitutional amendment would require that 30 days before the current budget would expire, if no new budget has been adopted, the House and Senate will form a single body to vote on a budget. If they still cannot agree to a budget by the time the current budget expires, then the entire General Assembly will be fired, and special elections called. Hopefully this would give enough motivation to the General Assembly to avoid a protracted budget standoff and government shutdown.

HB 1579 would do away with the requirement that cars and other vehicles be re-registered every year. There is no good reason for you to have to re-register your car every year (or every two years). Once a car has been registered, it is in the DMV database and should only need to be re-registered if it is sold or moved to another address.

I expect this bill will face an uphill battle in the General Assembly. While I think most legislators would agree with the premise of the bill, the problem will be the revenue generated by the registration “fee”. This bill would have a big revenue impact on the state budget. The registration fee is really a statewide car tax disguised as a fee. If not passed this year, this bill should at least start the discussion about eventually eliminating the annual registration requirement.

HJ 505 would establish a study group to reform Virginia's state and local taxes. Our state and local tax code is complex and archaic. It is based on a structure that was set-up more than a hundred years ago and needs to be simplified and updated. Much of our income tax code is based on the Federal IRS code, which everyone complains about as being too complex and unfair. I think we would be much better off to move towards a flat or fair tax.

HB 1309 is another bill that has received a fair amount of press coverage. It would allow local school boards to arm of school security officers with non-lethal weapons such as tasers and pepper spray. It would not require them to be armed, but would give the local school board the option to arm them. In light of recent school shootings, I feel we need to beef-up our security at schools.

Some schools have School Resource Officers (SRO), which are fully armed law enforcement officers. Other schools do not have an SRO but do have School Security Officers (SSO), which are civilians hired by the school to assist with school security: making sure doors are locked, monitoring halls, and checking parking lots. However, SSO’s are unarmed so they would be of limited help in the event of an armed intruder in a school. In the past I have sponsored legislation to put an SRO in every school, however, it did not pass which is why I am sponsoring this legislation.

HB 1328 is an attempt to determine the fiscal impact illegal immigration on our schools. This bill would require local school districts to report the number of students that are not lawfully present in the US and report that number to the Department of Education. The Department of Education will then request payment for the costs for educating these students from the Federal government.

The Federal government requires state and local governments to provide an education to all children, regardless of their immigration status, so I think it is fair to ask them to pay for students who are in the country illegally. Most of them are here because Washington has failed to do its job to secure the border and enforce immigration law.

I am also co-sponsoring several bills, including:

HB 1302 allows expedited retakes for Standards of Learning tests when a student fails the test.
HB 1308 strengthens privacy protections for electronic communications.
HB 1318 closes a loophole in our current voter ID law, by requiring a photo ID for absentee ballot applications.
HB 1362 would require a run-off election in the event that no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote for a statewide office.
HB 1750 expands access to investigational drugs for terminally ill patents.
HB 2111 allows a person who is required to carry certain hunting, trapping, or fishing licenses or a hunter education certificate to meet the requirement by carrying an electronic copy of the relevant license or certificate.

January 15, 2015
2015 GENERAL ASSEMBLY CONVENES

The 2015 General Assembly session opened on Wednesday, January 14 and got off to a brisk start. Delegates old and new are working hard to get a lot done in a short, 46 day session. I look forward to a productive session working for you in Richmond this year.

House leadership opened up the first day of session by welcoming five new members and going over some legislative priorities for this session, including reforming K-12 education, making higher education more affordable, holding the assembly to the highest ethical standards, and adopting a responsible budget that funds the core functions of government without raising taxes.

STATE OF THE COMMONWEALTH
Governor Terry McAuliffe delivered the annual State of the Commonwealth address to the Joint Assembly of the House of Delegates and Senate. Unfortunately, he chose to focus much of his speech promoting issues like the expansion of Medicaid included in Obamacare. I have heard from so many of my constituents that this is the wrong approach. The Governor went on to propose new spending without suggest a way to pay for them.

In contrast, Delegate Margaret Ransone and Senator Jeff McWaters delivered the Republican response, laying out a legislative agenda that would prepare Virginia for long-term growth. It includes measures to:

• Improve our public schools by supporting our teachers and better measuring student success;
• Make Virginia’s colleges and universities more affordable by placing limits on unreasonable student fees;
• Ensure Virginia’s college campuses are safe places for our students;
• Jumpstart the creation of new long-term care centers for Virginia’s large – and growing – population of veterans; and
• Further strengthen the new ethics and transparency reforms we approved last session.