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President's Column

President of the Senate and Lt. Governor, Jeffrey V. Kessler

Date: 03/01/2012

Final Week

With just over a week to go in the 2012 Regular Session, the Senate is working to consider as many bills as possible before the deadline. Wednesday (Feb.29) marked Crossover Day, meaning it was the last day to consider bills on third reading in the house of origin. Therefore, we are only considering House bills as we move forward.

The passage of the Governor’s mine safety bill as well as his substance abuse legislation highlighted this week.

The mine safety bill was passed unanimously in the House and has now passed in committee in the Senate and will now head to the floor. We do not expect to make any significant changes to the bill.

The bill would allow family representation on investigative panels following a mining accident and would also require ranking mine supervisors to review and sign off on daily mine safety reports at least once every two weeks.

The bill has a number of other provisions, among them:

-Increases the average penalty for underground violations from $3,000 to $5,000.

-Ensuring underground mine equipment shuts off when explosive gas levels rise

-Creating a new felony if a mine worker attempts to forewarn other miners of an impending inspection

The bill also requires the state to review existing enforcement procedures. The sweeping review, due in 2013, is supposed to include proposals for new laws and rules to improve inspections and accountability. Under the legislation, drug testing of mine workers is also required, something most companies already do.

The substance abuse bill was passed in the Senate and now heads to the House for consideration. The bill requires the licensing of pain clinics, better regulation of methadone clinics, public and medical education on the drug issue and the creation of a real time prescription monitoring system.

We also passed Senate bill 342 this week. The legislation is intended to relieve state prison and regional jail overcrowding by helping inmates break drug and alcohol addictions, hopefully leading to an earlier release.

The Senate bill was a refinement of the recommendations of an interim committee on overcrowding

The legislation emphasizes substance abuse treatment for new inmates when they arrive as well as provisions for better transition out of prisons when they leave.

The bill also provides $640,000 a year in state funding for an inmate substance abuse recovery program. The legislation now heads to the House.

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.






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