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!


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.