Delegate Mark Cole Update on the 2017 General Assembly
This is to update you on the Virginia General Assembly.
I would like to invite you, your family, and neighbors to spend the day with us at the General Assembly for our Richmond Open House on Monday, Feb. 20, 2017 — 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 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. 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 email me so that we will know how many to prepare for. If you are not able to attend on February 20, but would like to visit on another day, let me know and I will make arrangements.
I wanted to share with you information about some of the legislation being considered by the General Assembly. Since I am Chairman of the House Privileges and Elections Committee, I am sponsoring several bills dealing with elections.
My House Bill (HB) 1537 is similar to the Federal Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act, to allow service members who are transferred or deployed to cancel some service contracts, which they can no longer use.
HB 1425 would change how we allocate Electoral Votes in Presidential elections. Currently, we have a winner take all allocation; what this bill would do is change it to be awarded based on the results of each Congressional District, with the overall winner of the state receiving the 2 statewide Electors. I have heard from many rural voters who feel their vote for President does not matter because more populated areas like Northern Virginia overwhelm their votes. I believe this change would increase voter turnout and interest from candidates in Virginia.
HB 1431 would prevent third-party voter registration groups from paying people on a per application basis. This legislation was requested by Voter Registrars in order to reduce the financial incentive to submit fraudulent voter registration forms. Last year there were several cases of fake voter registrations being submitted, most by employees of third-party registration groups who paid on a per application basis.
HB 1598 would require new voters to show proof of citizenship when registering to vote. This legislation is in response to many non-citizens being found on the voter rolls in the Commonwealth. I believe many are being registered inadvertently when they apply for a driver’s license. This would keep that from happening.
HB 1392 would authorize local School Boards to allow School Security Officers, who were former law enforcement officers, to carry a firearm while on duty at school. Currently, only active law enforcement officers are legally allowed to carry a gun on school property. This bill would give local School Boards another option to improve school security and protect children.
I did want to mention a couple of other bills that have received a lot of negative publicity by those who oppose them: HB 1473 the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would restrict abortions after the child has matured enough to feel pain, which is 20 weeks; and 1612 Physical Privacy Act, which would require state government and public school facilities, including restrooms, dressing rooms and showers that are designated for use by MEN or WOMEN to be used only by those who are physically men or women. It would not affect facilities that are unisex or undesignated.
The opponents of those bills were successful in marginalizing them and characterizing them as extremist. Roanoke College recently conducted a statewide poll on these two bills and found that more Virginians support them than oppose them. 53 percent favors a state law that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and 43 percent supporting requiring individuals to use the bathroom that corresponds with their birth gender while 39 percent oppose.
At the start of session, Governor McAuliffe stated that one of his goals for this session was to repeal Virginia’s voter photo ID law. I am pleased to report that we defeated that legislation last week.
Our photo ID law was adopted several years ago, and was recently upheld in Federal court. The law is a reasonable provision to reduce voter fraud and enjoys overwhelming public support. If a voter does not have a photo ID, they can receive one free of charge from their Voter Registrar. Also, if someone forgets their ID on Election Day, they may still cast a provisional ballot and show their ID later.
I encourage you to keep in touch with me over the coming months. I value the feedback you provide as it helps me do a better job of representing you. Also keep in touch on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/markcoleva ) or Twitter (https://twitter.com/MarkColeVA ).
Virginia House of Delegates, 88th District
Spotsylvania, Stafford, Fredericksburg, and Fauquier
Editor’s Note: The views expressed in this article are those of Delegate Cole, and not necessarily those of Fredericksburg.Today.
Delegate Mark Cole on the Opening of the 2017 General Assembly