As the 2012 Regular Session enters its second week there is already a lot of work being done in the West Virginia Senate.
As of this writing, 375 bills have been introduced in the Senate. So far, I have sponsored 53 bills that cover a variety of topics and that I believe aim to move West Virginia forward.
I am once again sponsoring a bill that creates the West Virginia Futures Futures Fund. The bill (Senate Bill 182) calls for holding back 25 percent of the severance tax dollars resulting from the production of Marcellus Shale in the state, and placing the money in an interest-bearing special revenue account. The principal and interest of the Future Fund would be encumbered for 20 years to assure its growth.
The bill is modeled after a system currently in use in Alaska that allows its residents to benefit yearly from the state’s bountiful oil tax revenue.
This natural gas boon through Marcellus Shale could potentially be one of the biggest opportunities for American industry in the last 50 years. It will be equivalent to what has happened with oil in Alaska and Texas.
Over time, The West Virginia Future Fund can grow tremendously to a point that we have hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions, to draw from as a means of sustaining our economy, regardless of the economic climate of any given time.
We could also use this money in a variety of ways to help West Virginia reach its full potential. We could use it to provide diversification of the economy, educational opportunities, and to increase infrastructure that is so needed in the state. Another objective would be to provide tax relief to our citizens. We want to share the wealth created by this industry with every man, woman and child that chooses to live in our great state.
Another bill I am sponsoring (Senate Bill 346) creates the Larry Border Act, named after the late delegate, which would require a prescription for cold and allergy medicines containing pseudoephedrine. The drug is a key meth-making ingredient.
I believe that the public health benefits from this bill strongly outweigh any inconvenience to consumers. This is an effort that would likely show immediate positive results while costing the state very little.
In other news, Senate Bill 168, a bill that would give pay raises of $10,000 or more to county elected officials advanced from Senate Government Organization committee Wednesday (Jan. 18) without amendment or discussion.
As currently written, the bill would increase salaries of county commissioners by $10,000, assessors by $10,000, prosecuting attorneys by $12,000. county sheriffs by $13,000 and county clerks and circuit clerks by $15,000.
The bill, which I sponsored, stipulates that the pay raises are contingent on the counties having sufficient increases in revenue to cover the hikes.
The measure now goes to the Senate Finance where there will likely be discussion and debate with regard to the momentary policy. I expect possible discussion about amending the bill to percentage raises.
If you would like to follow the daily action of the Legislature, visit the 80th Legislature on the web at http://www.legis.state.wv.us/.
I hear your voice and I encourage all of you, regardless of party or affiliation, to contact me with any concerns you have regarding issues facing our district or our state. You can write to me at: Jeffrey V. Kessler, State Senate, Room 227M, Building 1 State Capitol Complex Charleston, WV 25305.