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!

September 1, 2016
BUDGET SHORTFALL

Last week we met with Governor McAuliffe to receive his report on a nearly $ 1.5 Billion dollar shortfall in state tax revenues. Unlike Washington and the Federal Government, we must balance Virginia’s budget. The Governor will be receiving proposals from the various state agencies on how to reduce their budget in the coming weeks. One of the casualties of the shortfall is the planned pay raise for state employees and state supported teachers. The raise was contingent on tax revenues meeting projections. The reason for the shortfall is the weak economy.

JOB CREATION
The biggest factor in the budget shortfall has been the lack of well-paying new jobs. The administration in Washington has been quick to brag about the number of jobs being created and lower unemployment rates; however, the problem is that most of those new jobs are lower paying or part time jobs, not well paying full time jobs. We are seeing the results of this in lower than expected income tax payments. About 85 percent of the new jobs created in Virginia recently have been mid to low paying jobs. This is why the middle class has been slowly slipping into poverty.

The reason for this is the increased burdens and regulations being placed on businesses by Washington. Historically, small businesses have accounted for about 75 percent of all new jobs created. Businesses have been hit hard by high taxes, new regulations, and the increasing burdens of Obamacare. Small businesses have the hardest time trying to deal with these burdens. The effect has been to stifle new job creation which has led to lower than expected tax revenues.

CONTEMPT OF COURT
Attorneys for General Assembly leaders and Virginia voters have filed a contempt motion against Governor McAuliffe with the Virginia Supreme Court. The petitioners are requesting an order from the Court requiring the Governor and other respondents to show cause for why they should not be held in contempt for violating the Supreme Court’s July 22 decision regarding McAuliffe’s blanket restoration of felon rights.

In the decision against Governor McAuliffe, the Court ruled that the governor replaced a general rule with a categorical exception, effectively suspending the constitutional prohibition on felon voting and violating Virginia’s Constitution. Since then the Governor has sought to circumvent the Court decision. The contempt motion argues that the effect of this is practically the same as the first set of executive orders which were overruled by the Court, resulting in another unconstitutional suspension of the laws.

TSA SCREENING AT DMV
Virginia is now the first state to offer Transportation Security Administration (TSA) airport security PreCheck and Transportation Worker Identification Credentials (TWIC) at select DMV offices around the state. Legislation passed last session enables Virginia DMV to partner with the federal government to offer federal services through DMV. DMV now offers PreCheck and TWIC cards at its Fredericksburg, Richmond, Newport News and Tysons Corner offices. Five more DMV offices will offer the services by the end of 2016 and another office will be added to the slate in 2017. TSA PreCheck offers expedited security screening for travelers leaving select airports across the United States, and TWIC provides access to secure areas of the nation’s maritime facilities. Before, such services were only available at TSA offices in the DC area or Richmond.

August 3, 2016
SALES TAX HOLIDAY

Virginia’s Sales Tax Holiday is this weekend, August 5-7. During this period, you may purchase qualifying school supplies, clothing, footwear, hurricane and emergency items, Energy Star and WaterSense products without paying the state sales tax. Visit the Virginia Department of Taxation website for details:

Sales Tax Holiday Information

EXECUTIVE ORDER
A few months ago, just after the General Assembly had adjourned, Governor McAuliffe issued a blanket executive order restoring certain rights of more than 200,000 convicted felons who had completed their sentences. While the Virginia’s Constitution grants the Governor the power of clemency that has always been interpreted as being applied on an individual, case-by-case basis, and not a blanket authority. In fact, more than one Governor in the past has asked legal counsel if they could issue such blanket clemency, and they were advised that they could not.

Normally, the Attorney General would challenge the Governor’s unlawful actions, but Attorney General Herring routinely puts politics before doing his deputy which forced General Assembly members and Virginia citizens to sue to overturn Governor McAuliffe’s order. The Virginia Supreme Court heard the suit last month and ruled that the Governor’s action was in fact unlawful.

It is not that the General Assembly is opposed to the restoration of rights, but that there should be a review process before rights are restored to ensure that the individual has become a law abiding member of society. In fact, over the years I have helped several constituents get their rights restored.

The Governor’s blanket executive order would have automatically restored the rights of all felons, including violent criminals, who had completed their state sentences. When we researched who was covered by his order, we found that it included people who were currently serving time in Federal prisons and actual fugitives from justice, as well as sex offenders who had been civilly committed.

Some have said that since they have served their sentence, they have somehow paid their debt to society. Prison sentences do not repay society or the victims for the impacts of crimes committed against them, especially violent crimes where someone was assaulted, raped, or even killed.

Prison sentences are not payment of debt, but are meant to be punishment and a deterrent for crime. Part of the sentence in Virginia for serious crimes, felonies, is the loss of certain rights, such as the possession of a firearm, voting, holding elected office, and the ability to serve on a jury. A person’s rights are not affected for misdemeanors.

There is currently a process where a person can petition the Governor or a judge to have their rights restored. I think this process has worked well in the past and I do not see the need to change it.

June 28, 2016
NEW LAWS

The Virginia Constitution specifies that newly enacted laws take effect on July 1st of each year. Summaries of legislation passed by the General Assembly during the 2016 session and signed into law by Governor McAuliffe can be found at the following web site:

New Laws 2016


EXECUTIVE ORDER
A couple of months ago, just after the General Assembly had adjourned, Governor McAuliffe issued a blanket executive order restoring certain rights of more than 200,000 convicted felons who had completed their sentences. While Virginia’s Constitution grants the Governor the power of clemency that has always been interpreted as being applied on an individual, case-by-case basis, and not a blanket authority. In fact, other Governors in the past have asked legal counsel if they could issue such blanket clemency, and they were advised that they could not.

The General Assembly has had several bills and resolutions in the past to provide an automatic, blanket restoration of rights for felons, which failed to pass. Evidently Governor McAuliffe decided if he could not get legislation passed, he would take the law into his own hand and issue an executive order.

Normally, the Attorney General would challenge the Governor’s unlawful actions, but Attorney General Herring routinely puts politics before doing his deputy which has forced General Assembly members and Virginia citizens to sue to overturn Governor McAuliffe’s order. The Virginia Supreme Court has agreed to an expedited hearing on July 19th to decide the issue.

Not only do I believe the executive order to be unlawful, but it was not well thought out or researched before it was issued. When Governor McAuliffe was asked to produce a list of persons whose rights he had just restored, he refused to do so, in violation of Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act. This forced those trying to find out who was on the list, including the press, to go look up names on an individual basis, to see which felons were on the list.

What has been found so far is truly alarming. Unless the executive order is overturned, the Governor has restored the rights of violent criminals, murderers, and sex offenders. So far, several violent criminals who are currently serving time in Federal prison were on the list as well as at least 132 violent sex offenders who have been civilly committed to treatment facilities after they served their prison sentences.

The rights restored by Governor McAuliffe were not just voting rights, but included the right to sit on a jury. So you could have a convicted sex offender serving on a jury of someone who is being tried for a sex crime. In fact, a defense attorney in a current case has already requested that at least one convicted felon be included on a jury. As I said, Governor McAuliffe did not think out the full ramifications of his actions. I believe he was only thinking of politics, however, his actions have consequences beyond this year’s election.

BUDGET ITEM VETO
Virginia Governors have the authority to not only sign or veto legislation, but also to propose amendments and veto budget line items. In recent years, the state budget has included language stating that the Medicaid program may not be expanded unless approved by the General Assembly. Governor McAuliffe proposed an amendment to this year’s budget removing that restriction. This amendment was defeated by the General Assembly.

The Governor then purported to veto just that restriction. The Speaker of the House ruled that the Governor’s line item veto of that restriction was not valid, because it did not veto a spending item, but a restriction embedded within an item, which courts have ruled in the past is not permitted. So the budget will become law with the restriction on Medicaid expansion.

VOTER ID
A few years ago, we passed legislation requiring a photo ID in order to vote. Recently, Democrats filed suit trying to overturn that law. I am pleased to report that the courts have upheld the law. When we drafted the law, care was taken to make sure it complied with previous court rulings and civil rights laws. A provision was included to allow anyone to receive a free voter ID from the Registrar’s office if they needed one, so there is no reason for someone not to have a photo ID.

April 26, 2016
VETO SESSION

The General Assembly convened last week to consider Governor McAuliffe’s vetoes and amendments in what is known as the “reconvened” or “veto” session. The Governor vetoed 32 bills, recommended amendments to 57 bills, and signed 732 bills. The Governor vetoed commonsense legislation to keep our kids safe in school, improve educational opportunities for low-income communities, and protect jobs. In two years, Governor McAuliffe has vetoed more legislation than Governors McDonnell, Kaine, and Warner vetoed in each of their four-year terms.

The General Assembly passed House Bill (HB) 1234 to allow school boards to authorize retired law enforcement to carry firearms when serving as school security officers. The Governor vetoed the legislation, even though it passed with a veto-proof majority with Democratic support. Democrats flipped their votes to uphold the Governor’s veto. Instead of voting to protect our kids, Democrats voted to protect the Governor’s veto.

The General Assembly passed HB 516 to require schools to notify parents of sexual explicit content in course materials. The bill passed with the support of Democrats who flipped their vote to uphold the Governor’s veto. Instead of voting to empower parents, once again Democrats voted to protect the Governor’s veto.

This year Democrats voted against notifying parents about sexually explicit material and to allow boys to use girls’ restrooms and dressing rooms at school, but Republicans are the ones who are called “extremists”.

The Governor made 30 amendments to the budget passed by the General Assembly, most were technical and were accepted. The House rejected the Governor’s amendment to allow Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion in Virginia. Medicaid expansion is busting budgets in other states, and we cannot afford to put Virginia taxpayers on the hook for the untold costs that come with expansion.

The House rejected the Governor’s attempt to eliminate budget language pushing back against President Obama’s EPA overreach. The House inserted language to prohibit the Governor from complying with new EPA rules until the Supreme Court’s stay of the new rules is lifted. Virginia should not spend taxpayer dollars complying with rules that kill jobs and are very likely to be thrown out by the Supreme Court.

The House also rejected the Governor’s budget amendment to expand taxpayer funding for abortion.

We accepted the Governor’s amendment to my HB 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. I 95 needs to be a higher priority for VDOT to address; hopefully this legislation will make that happen!

EXECUTIVE ORDER
Governor McAuliffe announced last Friday that he is issueing a blanket executive order immediately restoring the voting rights of 206,000 convicted felons. The Virginia Constitution gives the Governor the authority to grant clemancy to criminals including the restoration of rights; however, this has always been on an individual basis and not via a blanket executive order. In fact, Governors Kaine and McDonnell considered similar action and were advised by legal council that they could only do so on a case-by-case basis and not through a sweeping executive order.

When convicted felons have completed their sentence and paid their debt to society, they deserve the opportunity to demonstrate they once again deserve their civil rights. However, there should be a clear and consistent delineated policy that applies fairly and equitably. That policy should take into account the nature of the crimes committed, whether they have paid back their victims and the court system, and their willingness to serve as productive members of society.

The Governor’s policy applies to violent criminals who have committed even the most heinous violent crimes including murder, rape, child abuse, and kidnapping. By applying no discretion or judiciousness to this process, the Governor is undermining the strength of the criminal justice system and the sanctity of our civil rights. Under this order, child sex offenders will be able to serve on juries that decide whether the next child sex offender should go to prison.

In fact, the General Assembly has defeated legislation several times in the past to do just what the Governor has done. He is taking an Obama-like view of executive authority, using a broad and sweeping interpretation of the Constitution that directly contradicts legal advice given to previous Governors. No one has ever accepted this view of a Governor’s executive clemency powers.

The Governor’s motives are transparently political. The purpose of Terry McAuliffe’s governorship is to elect Hillary Clinton President of the United States. This office has always been a stepping stone to a job in Hillary Clinton’s cabinet. Instead of adopting a clear policy that can be applied equitably, he is changing the rules in the middle of the 2016 election benefit Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Republican leaders have called on the Governor to convene a special session of the General Assembly to deal with this issue. They are also weighing a legal challenge to this action.

April 15, 2016
RECONVENED SESSION

The regular General Assembly session adjourned a little over a month ago. Since then, all legislation that passed during session was sent to Governor McAuliffe for his review and action. He has signed many bills, submitted amendments to others, and vetoed several. The General Assembly will reconvene on Wednesday, April 20th to consider his amendments and vetoes.

This Governor has not been shy about vetoing legislation. In fact, he has already vetoed more bills in his first three years in office than the previous three Governors did in their full term. Most of his actions were expected, such as vetoing legislation dealing with education innovation, gun rights, restricting taxpayer funding of abortion, and ensuring election integrity. Given the political make-up of the General Assembly, it will be very difficult to override any of the vetoes.

Many of his amendments to legislation are technical in nature and will be accepted. For example my the Governor amended my House Bill 97, which requires VDOT to evaluate the extension of I95 HOV lanes further south. The Governor amended the legislation to expand the alternatives studied. I consider the amendments to be an improvement and actually makes the bill closer to what the House passed, before the Senate amended it.

He also made several amendments to the state budget. Many of the amendments are technical and will be accepted by the General Assembly. Others are more political in nature, such as amendments to remove restrictions on taxpayer funding for abortion and to allow him to expand Medicaid. I expect most of the political amendments to be rejected.

You can view a summary of the Governor's legislative amendments and vetoes at the following web page:

Governor Amendments and Vetoes

March 15, 2016
GENERAL ASSEMBLY SESSION ADJOURNS

The 2016 General Assembly adjourned last Friday, finishing our work early for the second year in a row. During session about 900 bills were passed and have been sent to the Governor for his consideration. The Governor can sign, veto, or amend legislation that comes to him. Any vetoes or amendments will come back to the General Assembly for consideration at the Reconvened Session on April 20th. Most legislation mentioned in this report is still awaiting action by the Governor before becoming law.

STATE BUDGET
Virginia does biennial, or two year budgeting. This session we passed two budget bills: one makes adjustments to finish the current budget (House Bill 29) and one to establish a new two year budget beginning on July 1st (HB 30). Here are some highlights from the new budget:

• No tax or fee increases on hard working Virginians.
• Takes steps to set Virginia on a responsible fiscal course – eliminating state liabilities, decreasing the amount we are borrowing and making one-time investments rather than committing to long-term spending.
• Provides over $900 million in new funding for K-12 education, while giving local school divisions added flexibility. Includes money for local School Boards to give a 2% teacher pay raise in the first year of the budget.
• Includes over $114 million in new funding for higher education to hold down tuition costs for Virginia families.
• Makes strategic investments in economic development, but adding additional oversight to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely.

The budget does not include Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion or the Medicaid provider tax that Governor McAuliffe proposed. Instead, we continue to build on our work to strengthen the healthcare safety net.

TRANSPORTATION
The budget increases funding for transportation by nearly $ 1 Billion, $ 662.8 million (10.2 percent increase) the first year and $ 335.4 million (5.0 percent) the second year. Total funding for transportation is $13.4 Billion over the biennium.

My HB 97 passed and is now being considered by the Governor. It directs the Department of Transportation to conduct an evaluation with the Fredericksburg Area Metropolitan Planning Organization to address traffic congestion on Interstate 95 in our area. I 95 needs to be a higher priority for VDOT to address; hopefully this legislation will make that happen!

ASSET FORFEITURE
While my legislation (HB 48) which would have required a criminal conviction before the government could take your money or property did not pass, we did pass some reforms to the Asset Forfeiture law.

Senate Bill 457 increases the standard for taking property from a “preponderance of the evidence” to “clear and convincing evidence.” It makes it a little harder for government to confiscate property, because they will need to present stronger evidence in a civil forfeiture proceeding. While this is a step in the right direction, it still falls short of the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard applied for a criminal conviction.

HB 771 and SB 423 prohibit law enforcement agencies from inducing a property owner to waive their rights to property, authorizes a court to stay forfeiture proceedings, and requires a report on forfeiture proceeds and distributions be submitted to the Governor annually.

SUPREME COURT
In Virginia, the General Assembly is responsible for appointing judges. The Governor may only make temporary judicial appointments to fill vacancies when the General Assembly is not in session. Such a vacancy occurred last year, when a member of the Virginia Supreme Court retired.

Governor McAuliffe made a temporary appointment to fill the position until the General Assembly convened and could make an appointment. A majority of the General Assembly wanted to appoint someone else to the position, which led to a political fight with the Governor over the appointment.

The House and Senate eventually agreed Judge Stephen McCullough for the Virginia Supreme Court. Judge McCullough is a Constitutional conservative and will be an exceptional addition to the state Supreme Court.

Unfortunately, Governor McAuliffe sought to stop the General Assembly from fulfilling its duty to make this appointment. He tried to stop the appointment, I believe so that he could make another appointment after we adjourned. While it is not unusual for Governors to endorse or try to rally support for judicial nominees, McAuliffe took it to a political level I have not seen before in Richmond.

McAuliffe offered to sign coal tax credit legislation (SB 44) if southwest Virginia senators would vote against McCullough. In a stirring floor speech, Senator Carrico (R-Grayson) stated “I will not bend, I will not bow, will not break to his politically corrupt way to try to thwart the process of this General Assembly.”

Carrico voted to appoint McCullough; shortly thereafter, Governor McAuliffe did in fact veto SB 44, which obviously had nothing to do with a Supreme Court appointment.

LEGISLATION
Some other legislation passed by the General Assembly includes:

Constitutional Amendments
House Joint Resolution (HJ) 2
is a proposed Virginia constitutional amendment to enshrine the right to work law in the state Constitution which will solidify this pro-business policy. This amendment will be on the ballot this November for voter approval. The state constitution can only be amended by the voters.

HJ 123 constitutional amendment to expand the real-property tax exemption to include the primary residence of the surviving spouse of any law-enforcement officer, firefighter, search and rescue personnel, or emergency medical services personnel killed in the line of duty.

Business and Economy
HB 2
requires General Assembly oversight and approval of Virginia’s plan to comply with the EPA carbon rules.

HB 18 protects small businesses that operate franchises from being forced to unionize their employees.

HB 378 improves Virginia’s business climate by reforming a major part of our worker’s compensation law

Voting
HB 9
would specify in the code what is required to be on the Voter Registration Form. This was submitted in response to an effort by the current administration to water down voter registration requirements by redesigning the form to deemphasize some critical requirements, such as being a citizen of the US.

HB 88 establishes standard training for voter Registrars and Electoral Board members and HB 1145 reassigns duties of the electoral boards related to elections administration to the registrars.

Taxes and Regulation
HB 15
ensures that when personal property falls under more than one tax category it takes the lowest tax category to ensure that we are not overburdening individuals.

HB 462 ensures that the public can effectively communicate with an Executive branch agency when promulgating new regulations.

HB 644 requires Courts to declare null and void and regulations that are illegally adopted. Under current law, a Court may uphold regulations even if they were illegally adopted.

Education
HB 8
allows students the opportunity to take courses not offered in their local school division through online public schools. We have pushed this initiative for many years, and are one step closer to making it a reality.

HB 389 establishes Education Savings Accounts to allow families with special needs students to receive direct access to the state funding for that student. That funding is deposited into an Education Savings Account, where it can be used for private school tuition, homeschool, online classes, course materials, or other educational purposes.

HB 516 directs the State Board of Education to develop a uniform statewide policy on sexually explicit content in course materials. Much like current law for family life classes, this policy would require schools to notify parents of sexually explicit content, allow the parent to review the material, and allow the parent to request an alternative assignment.

HB 518 gives parents and students the ability to transfer to a better performing school within their division.

Healthcare
HB 685
allows an individual the ability to enter into an agreement with their direct primary healthcare provider for more efficient and cost effective healthcare.

HB 58 allows small businesses to continue purchasing health insurance in the small group market, reduces healthcare premium costs for small businesses and ensures that hundreds of thousands of Virginians can keep their coverage.

Guns
HB 1163
restores and expands concealed carry reciprocity. Virginia will recognize valid permits from all other states with concealed carry permits, and the State Police will enter into agreements to ensure Virginia permits are recognized in other states.

HB 90 allows a member of the Virginia National Guard to possess a concealed handgun at National Guard facilities and facilities under contract with the National Guard if such member has a valid concealed handgun permit.

Religious Liberty
HB 19
prohibits the state of Virginia from requiring religious officiants from taking an oath to the Commonwealth and clarifies that religious officiants are not officers of the Commonwealth. This will prevent the state from forcing religious leaders to conduct weddings or ceremonies that are contrary to their religious beliefs. SB 41 provides similar protections.

Veterans
HB 477
authorizes the Virginia Public Building Authority to issue bonds to construct veterans care centers in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.

February 26, 2016
STATE BUDGET

The House passed its proposal for the state budget this week. It will now go to the Senate for their consideration. The House budget is structurally-balanced and does not include any tax or fee increases; overall general fund spending has decreased by 5 percent over 10 years when adjusted for population and inflation. The House proposal does not include Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion or the Medicaid provider tax that both Republicans and Democrats in Congress have called a “gimmick.” Some of the provisions of this proposal include:

- Exceeds the Governor’s investment in K-12 education by nearly $70 million while increasing flexibility for local schools; includes a teacher pay raise. Invests $15.2 billion for direct aid to public education, an increase of $897.1 million from the previous biennium.
- Provides funding for higher education to limit tuition increases to no more than 3 percent per year.
- Funds a comprehensive package to combat domestic violence, including additional funding for prevention, treatment and counseling services.
- Invests $28.9 million in new healthcare funding to build a stronger healthcare safety net, including funding for substance abuse treatment, to create two new PACT teams, increase eligibility for the GAP program, and creates new DD waiver slots.
- Provides a 3 percent pay raise in the first year for state employees.
- Deposits $605 million in the state’s rainy day fund.
- Funds the annual contribution to the Virginia Retirement System at 100 percent of the Board certified rate, fulfilling our requirement two years ahead of schedule. Accelerates the $189.5 million repayment to the VRS for the contribution rate deferral in 2010. This is six years ahead of schedule. This saves $44 million per year moving forward.
- Eliminates the Accelerated Sales Tax on over 90 percent of businesses by the end of FY 2018.
- Proposes a bond package which is nearly 40 percent smaller than the package proposed by the Governor. It allocates excess revenues to reduce the amount of money borrowed for the bond package. Under the House proposal, if revenues exceed the modified forecast that money will be used to pay down the balance of the bond package.

TRANSPORTATION
The proposed budget for transportation includes net increases of nearly $ 1 Billion, $ 662.8 million (10.2 percent) the first year and $ 335.4 million (5.0 percent) the second year. Total funding for transportation is $13.4 Billion over the biennium.

My House Bill (HB) 97 has passed the House and is now being considered by the Senate. It 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. I 95 needs to be a higher priority for VDOT to address; hopefully this legislation will make that happen!

SESSION’S FIRST VETO
I have the dubious honor of sponsoring the first bill that Governor McAuliffe has vetoed this session. HB 254 was vetoed; the bill was requested by the Fredericksburg Electoral Board, made a minor line adjustment between my district and Speaker Howell’s district downtown in order to reduce a split precinct. The Governor has taken the position that no adjustments to district lines, no matter how minor, may be made after redistricting took place. This is contrary to longstanding practice and actually ends up costing localities money.

In the past, the General Assembly has always made minor technical adjustments to legislative districts in order to reduce precincts that are split between two or more districts (the General Assembly does not set precinct boundaries; that is a local function). Split precincts make elections more complex and costly, which is why we try to minimize them. Unfortunately, Governor McAuliffe’s position on this issue only makes the jobs of our local election officials a little harder and more expensive.

CONCEALED CARRY RECIPROCITY
Governor McAuliffe signed legislation that overrules Attorney General Herring’s decision to remove the recognition of most out of state concealed carry permits. Virginia will honor permits from all states that issue permits starting July 1, which will actually expand the number of states Virginia recognizes. Hopefully this will lead to even more states recognizing Virginia’s permit as well.

February, 17, 2016
CROSSOVER

This week was Crossover at the Virginia General Assembly. Crossover is when the House must finish its work on House Bills and the Senate finishes work on Senate Bills. The legislation then crosses over to the other body for consideration. Here is a summary of some of the legislation that passed the House, these bills must still pass the Senate and be signed by the Governor before they become law:

EDUCATION
House Joint Resolution (HJ) 1
a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the State Board of Education to establish public charter schools. The intent is to provide the Board another tool to deal with consistently failing schools. If it passes the Senate, it will go to the voters for approval this November.

House Bill (HB) 8 establishes the Virginia Virtual School that would allow a student to take an online course that may not be offered in his/her local school division.

HB 389 establishes Education Savings Accounts to allow families of students with IEPs the opportunity to receive funding for instructional needs not currently being met in the public schools.

HB 1234 authorizes a school board to allow a school security officer to carry a firearm in the performance of his duties if he is a retired law-enforcement officer.

HB 131 would permit public high schools to allow home schooled students to participate in sports and other competitive extra-curricular activities.

HB 516 requires schools to notify parents of sexually explicit instructional material, allows the parent to review the material, and gives the parent the option to request another assignment.

HB 518 gives parents and students the ability to transfer to a better performing school within their division.

HEALTHCARE
HB 193
and HB 350 reform the Certificate of Public Need (COPN) process to allow and encourage competition among healthcare providers, which should lead to an increase in access to care, reduced costs, and promote innovation.

HB 58 allows small businesses to continue purchasing health insurance in the small group market, reduces healthcare premium costs for small businesses, and ensures that hundreds of thousands of Virginians can keep their coverage.

HB 685 allows an individual the ability to enter into an agreement with their direct primary care provider for cost effective healthcare without the risk of government interference.

HB 825 establishes a pilot program in which military medical personnel may practice medicine under the supervision of a licensed physician.

HB 900 authorizes the Board of Medicine to issue a two-year license to practice as an associate physician to an applicant who is 18 years of age or older, is of good moral character, has successfully completed a course of study approved by the Board, has successfully completed Step 1 and Step 2 of the United States Medical Licensing Examination, and has not completed a medical internship or residency program.

HB 1090 would redirect health dollars away from Planned Parenthood and toward other providers by prioritizing funding for qualified health centers.

HB 378 fee schedules for medical services. Improves Virginia’s business climate by reforming a major part of our worker’s compensation law.

CONCEALED CARRY RECIPROCITY
The House of Delegates passed an agreement, HB 1163, to reverse Attorney General Herring’s announcement revoking concealed carry reciprocity with 25 states. The agreement would expand concealed carry reciprocity to cover all states that grant concealed carry permits to their residents and includes additional amendments would minimize the power of the Attorney General to unilaterally revoke them.

HB 1096 repeals Governor Terry McAuliffe’s Executive Order banning guns in state buildings and prevents future executive branch actions to regulate firearms on state property.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE / PROTECTING VICTIMS
HB 610
and HB 766 would increase penalties on those who repeatedly commit domestic violence or commit crimes against those who have protective orders, and would allow someone with a protective order to carry a concealed weapon while waiting for processing on a permit.

VOTING
HB 9
would specify in the code what is required to be on the Voter Registration Form. This was submitted in response to an effort by the current administration to water down voter registration requirements by redesigning the form to deemphasize some critical requirements, such as being a citizen of the US.

HB 88 establishes standard training for voter Registrars and Electoral Board members and HB 1145 reassigns duties of the electoral boards related to elections administration to the registrars.

HB 1379 requires that voter lists be checked against list of other states and that the list be purged in a timely fashion of duplicates and those no longer eligible to vote in Virginia. Our current Department of Elections has been dragging its feet when it comes to voter list maintenance.

GENERAL GOVERNMENT
HB 15
requires that when personal property falls under more than one tax category it takes the lowest tax category to ensure that we are not overburdening individuals.

HB 220 provides that the background information on gubernatorial appointees are made public to ensure transparency throughout the appointment process.

HB 665 creates a commission to study various aspects of the Virginia Retirement System, the Commonwealth’s unfunded liability, and other aspects of the state’s compensation and benefits package.

MILITARY / VETERANS
HB 127
clarifies that "killed in action" includes a service member who dies of wounds received in action after reaching a medical treatment center, for purposes of the real property tax exemption on the residence of the surviving spouse.

HB 477 authorizes the Virginia Public Building Authority to construct veterans care centers in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.

HB 90 allows a member of the Virginia National Guard to possess a concealed handgun at National Guard facilities if the member has a valid concealed handgun permit.

RELIGIOUS LIBERTY
HB 773
would prohibit government discrimination against a person or charitable organization solely based on sincerely held religious beliefs.

HB 19 provides that no oath shall be required of a minister or other person who seeks authorization to perform the rites of matrimony and that no such authorized minister or other person shall be considered an officer of the Commonwealth.

Two of my bills that did not pass were HB 48 which required a guilty verdict in court before the government could take assets and HB 781 which would protect the privacy by requiring state agencies, including public schools, to adopt policies that require males to use facilities (such as restrooms, dressing rooms, and showers) that are designated for use by males, and females to use facilities that designated female. HB 48 was defeated in a close vote in the House. The General Laws Committee chose to not proceed with HB 781 due to a pending federal lawsuit.

February 11, 2016
CABLE NEWS REPORT


Cable News Report With Delegate Mark Cole


February 3, 2016
BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT

Virginia’s pro-business rating has been slipping in recent years. This has become a great concern in the General Assembly and we are taking action to try to reverse this trend, in order to encourage job creation in the Commonwealth. The following is just some of the legislation being considered this session:

House Bill (HB2) In recent years the Federal EPA has been forcing through regulations that have been driving up the costs of electricity. This would simply require General Assembly approval before any state regulations that may drive up costs could be implemented.

House Joint Resolution (HJ2) Would put Virginia’s right to work law in the Virginia Constitution, if approved by the voters. Right to work laws are very important for businesses considering locating in Virginia and placing it in the state Constitution would make it more difficult to repeal or diminish.

HB18 Protects small business franchises from being forced to unionize or implement costly mandates. Franchises are independent businesses that enter into agreements national chains to operate businesses (such as McDonalds, Chick-fil-a, etc…). Some have been trying to force government to not recognize franchises as separate businesses, but just part of the national company in order to force small businesses to unionize and comply with costly big-business mandates.

HB66 Credentials workforce training programs to encourage workers to get advanced skills.

HB145 Protects small businesses from being forced by government to pay prevailing wages.

HB264 Protects small businesses that contract with local governments from being forced to pay certain benefits or compensation not already required by law.

HB217 Prohibits a locality from increasing its business machinery and tools tax, merchants' capital tax, and local license (BPOL) fees and taxes above the locality's rates in effect as of 2016.

HB462 Ensures greater transparency so that the public is fully aware of regulatory notices and how to contact the regulatory agency.

HB499 Ensures that occupational licenses are the least restrictive means to protect public safety, and that any new licenses demonstrate a compelling need.

HB644 Requires that if a court finds a regulation has violated the administrative procedures act, the regulation is immediately null and void.

HB898 Requires any new proposed regulation to include an economic impact statement on all regulations affecting the industry.

CONCEALED CARRY RECIPROCITY
Before Attorney General Herring removed Virginia’s recognition of most out of state concealed carry permits. The practical effect of that move is that those states would no longer recognize Virginia’s concealed carry permit, so Virginia permit holders could unknowingly become criminals if they travel to other states while carrying. Herring’s move was purely political. I have talked to several Sheriff’s and other law enforcement officials, and they know of no gun crimes being committed by out of state permit holders.

We have successfully negotiated with the Governor to undo Herring’s actions. The agreement will restore and expand concealed carry reciprocity, require State Police to be available for background checks at gun shows when needed, and prohibit individuals under permanent domestic violence protective orders from possessing a firearm, which is already Federal law. Legislation to implement the agreement will still need to pass both the House and Senate.

REDISTRICTING
Even though redistricting will not be done until 2021, numerous bills have been submitted to make changes to the process. Some of them are very good, while others sound good, but have problems when you dig into the details.

Some of the good bills were those that set reasonable criteria that may be used for redistricting. The problem with adopting a criteria now is that it will probably change several times between now and 2021. Federal courts frequently change the criteria that may be used so there really is no advantage to adopt a criteria now, when we would have to adopt a new criteria in 2021.

Other legislation, would establish an “independent” redistricting commission to oversee redistricting. This sounds good on the surface, but the devil is in the details. For example, a bill we recently dealt with would have established such a commission made up of 2 Republicans, 2 Democrats, and 3 “non-partisan” members of the current Administration who work for Governor McAuliffe. Effectively, that commission would have been made up of 2 Republicans and 5 Democrats. But it is labeled by its proponents as non-partisan or bi-partisan.

I am committed to open and fair redistricting. I am sure we will hear many differing proposals between now and 2021. I will support any measure that will truly make the process more fair and open.

GOVERNOR OPPOSES PRIVACY LEGISLATION
I am supporting legislation to protect the privacy of children and adults, HB663 and HB781, by requiring state agencies, including public schools, to adopt policies that require males to use facilities (such as restrooms, dressing rooms, and showers) that are designated for use by males, and females to use facilities that designated female. It would not affect undesignated or unisex facilities.

This is common sense. When a woman enters a facility that is designated for women, she has a reasonable expectation of privacy that she will not have to expose herself to a male nor be exposed to a male (and vice versa for facilities designated male). Unfortunately, this common sense does not appear to extend to Governor McAuliffe, as he recently came out as opposed to the legislation.

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 15 (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 at DelMCole@house.virginia.gov. If you are not able to attend on February 15, but would like to visit on another day, let me know and I will make arrangements.

January 21, 2016
WINTER WEATHER RESOURCES


With the winter storm heading our way, I wanted to share with you some resources and information just in case you need it. If possible, it is best to stay at home and not get on the roads unless you absolutely have too. Please tune in to local media for updates on the storm, road conditions and school closings and delays. And most importantly -- stay safe!


Report power outages, downed power lines, etc.
--- Dominion – (1-866-366-4357) Report Power Outages Online
--- Rappahannock Electric Coop – (1- 800-552-3904) ) Report Power Outages Online
--- NOVEC – (1- 888-335-0500) Report Power Outages Online

Helpful Information
--- Check road conditions: www.511virginia.org
--- Winter Driving Tips: Driving Tips
--- Winter weather tips: Weather Tips
--- Get the Ready Virginia Mobile App: Mobile App

Other Emergency Information Links:
--- Ready Virginia www.ReadyVirginia.gov
--- General Emergency Planning Tips: Emergency Plan
--- Tips for Seniors: Tips for Seniors
--- Power Outage Tips: Power Outages Tips

VDEM Winter Weather Videos:
--- Stay Safe & Warm - Stay Safe Video
--- Make a Car Emergency Kit - Auto Emergency Kit

Tips for dealing with extreme cold:
--- Wear cold weather appropriate clothing like gloves/mittens, hats, scarves and snow boots. Dress in several layers of loose-fitting clothing and cover your face and mouth if possible.
--- Be aware of the wind chill factor. Wind can cause body-heat loss.
--- Stay dry, and if you become wet, head indoors and remove any wet clothing immediately.
--- Limit your time outdoors.
--- Make sure you monitor the time your children are out in the cold.
--- Do not ignore shivering. It's an important first sign that the body is losing heat. Persistent shivering is a signal to return indoors.
--- If the heat in your home doesn’t work properly, contact your local government to find a warming center near you.
--- Check on others who might not be able to care for themselves.
--- Tips for keeping pets safe -- Pet Safety

January 16, 2016
SESSION STARTS

The 2016 General Assembly session opened on Wednesday, January 13 and got off to a brisk start. This year is a long, 60 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 new members and making committee assignments. My committee assignments remain unchanged; I serve as a member of the House Finance and Education Committees, as well as Chairman of the Privileges and Elections Committee, which deals with campaign and election law as well as Constitutional issues.

LEGISLATION
I have a full legislative agenda this session. Below are some of the bills I am sponsoring or co-sponsoring.

ASSET FORFEITURE REFORM – I have resubmitted legislation, House Bill (HB) 48, to require a conviction before the government could take someone’s property or money. Under current law, someone does not even have to be charged with a crime before assets could be taken by the government. All that has to be done to seize property is to allege that it was used in the commission of a crime or is the fruit of a criminal enterprise.

While nearly all Commonwealth’s Attorneys and Sheriffs use the program responsibly, the issue is clear to me, I think it is fundamentally un-American for the government to be able to take your property when you have not been convicted of a crime. The legislation passed the House overwhelmingly last year before it was defeated in the Senate Finance Committee. Governor McAuliffe also opposed the legislation last year.

TRANSPORTATION – HB 97 would require VDOT to begin the process of extending the I-95 HOT/HOV lanes further south. When the proposal to extend the HOT/HOV lanes was originally presented, they included extending the lanes all the way into Spotsylvania. When the final contract was negotiated by VDOT several years ago, it only included extending the lanes to Rt 610 in north Stafford. This has created a bottleneck in Stafford where the lanes end.

VDOT recently announced plans to extend the lanes a couple of miles to try to alleviate the current bottleneck; however, they need to be extended all the way to Spotsylvania as originally planned.

SCHOOL SECURITY – HB 167 would permit local school boards to allow former law enforcement officers, who either retired or left in good standing, and are hired by the schools to carry a gun on school property for security. Current Virginia law only allows active law enforcement officers to carry a gun on school property. Unfortunately, many schools do not have a Deputy or Police Officer assigned to them, leaving them open to potential attack. This legislation would allow local school boards to hire former law enforcement officers to improve security at schools.

GUN CONTROL – I am sponsoring HB 49, which would specify in the Code of Virginia that the right to keep and bear arms conferred by the United States Constitution and the Constitution of Virginia is an individual right. It really does not change current interpretation of the law, puts into code the current and historic Supreme Court interpretation of the Second Amendment. This way if the Court ever changes its interpretation, it would not affect Virginia law.

I am also co-sponsoring legislation, HB 12, to undo Attorney General Herring’s recent move to limit the recognition of most out of state concealed carry permits. The practical effect of that move is that those states will no longer recognize Virginia’s concealed carry permit, so Virginia permit holders could unknowingly be breaking the law if they travel to other states while carrying.

Herring’s move was purely political. I have talked to several Sheriff’s and other law enforcement officials, and they know of no gun crimes being committed by out of state permit holders.

PRIVACY – I am sponsoring three bills to protect privacy rights. HB 269 would allow someone to seek damages against another person who flies a drone over their property to take pictures without their permission.

Two other bills, HB 663 and HB 781, are designed to protect the privacy of school children and adults when using restrooms, dressing rooms, or showers in public facilities.

There is a lot of misinformation going around about this legislation. First it does NOT require that genitalia be checked or even authorize such checks. All it does is require public agencies, including schools, to develop policies to require males to use facilities (restrooms, showers, and dressing rooms) that are designated for males and females to use facilities designated for females. If a facility is not designated, such as unisex bathrooms, then it would not apply to them.

It is common sense legislation designed to protect the privacy of children and adults, and was requested by a group of parents in my district who are concerned about a male student who wanted to use the girls’ facilities. Schools have been sued for not allowing males to use female restrooms and this legislation is intended to adopt a clear policy and to pre-empt further suits.

This is about protecting privacy. When one goes into a facility that is designated for a specific gender, there is an expectation of privacy; that women will not have expose themselves to a man nor be exposed to a man, and visa versa.

Contrary to what has been said about the legislation, it does NOT require or even authorize genital checks. That is a lie started by those who want to make all facilities, including school restrooms, dressing rooms, and showers, "gender neutral." The legislation would be enforced on a complaint basis.

For example, if a woman was in a women’s dressing room and found a man using it, she would complain to the manager of the facility. The police could be called and a ticket or citation could be given to the offending party; maximum penalty is a $ 50 civil fine. The man could then either pay the ticket or contest it in court. If needed, gender could be verified by looking up student registration, driver’s license, birth certificate, or some other type of documentation that specifies the person’s gender.

I was surprised to find that current Virginia law has no prohibition against a man going into a woman’s restroom or dressing room. I guess it has always been considered common sense,

ELECTIONS – I am sponsoring several bills dealing with election issues. HB 9 would specify in the code what is required to be on the Voter Registration Form. This was submitted in response to an effort by the current administration to water down voter registration requirements by redesigning the form to deemphasize some critical requirements, such as being a citizen of the US.

HB 88 establishes standard training for voter Registrars and Electoral Board members and HB 1145 reassigns duties of the electoral boards related to elections administration to the registrars.

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 15 (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 at DelMCole@house.virginia.gov. If you are not able to attend on February 15, but would like to visit on another day, let me know and I will make arrangements.

January 12, 2016
DELEGATE COLE FILES LEGISLATION TO PROTECT THE PRIVACY OF SCHOOLCHILDREN AND ADULTS


Delegate Cole has filed legislation (House Bills 663 and 781) would require public agencies, including schools, to develop policies that require males to use facilities (restrooms, showers, and dressing rooms) that are designated for males and females to use facilities designated for females. If a facility is not designated, such as unisex bathrooms, then it would not apply to them.

It is common sense legislation designed to protect the privacy of children and adults, and was requested by a group of parents in my district who are concerned about a male student who wanted to use the girl’s facilities. Schools have been sued for not allowing males to use female restrooms and this legislation is intended to adopt a clear policy and to pre-empt further suits.

Contrary to what has been said about the legislation, it does NOT require genital checks. That is a lie started by those who want to make all facilities, including school restrooms, dressing rooms, and showers, "gender neutral." The legislation would be enforced on a complaint basis. If needed, gender could be verified by looking up student registration information or a birth certificate.

January 6, 2016
GENERAL ASSEMBLY SESSION

The Virginia General Assembly will convene its 2016 session next Wednesday, January 13th, in Richmond. This year is a budget year, so it will be a long session, scheduled to last 60 days. While we will deal with a wide variety of legislation, the primary focus of the session will be on developing the state budget.

If you would like to visit the State Capitol during session, please let me know so we can set-up a tour for you. I will be hosting an open house in Richmond on Presidents’ Day, February 15th. More details will be provided later.

PAST ACTIONS ON TRANSPORTATION
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.

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.

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.

Until the bureaucratic red tape is reduced, I am not sure that any amount of funding is going to solve the problem.