Kessler Eyes Last Week of Legislative Session

WHEELING – Senate President Jeff Kessler expects bills regarding exotic animals, substance abuse and animal spay programs to be considered before the West Virginia Legislature adjourns next week.

Kessler, D-Marshall, said the 2012 regular session has proceeded “very efficiently.” Lawmakers have passed “Crossover Day” – the 50th day of the 60-day regular session and the time when bills must be passed out of their chamber of origin for consideration in the other chamber.

“‘Crossover Day’ was Wednesday, and we passed all our bills out by 1 p.m.,” Kessler said. “There was no mad rush.”

He noted Senate members adopted a policy that there would be no internal rule suspension to allow bills to be accelerated out of the Senate without enough deliberation in committee.

“Our thought (on Crossover Day) was if a bill was not already moving on first reading, it was dead,” Kessler said. “Nothing happened without adequate and thorough discussion.”

Kessler said it was reported to him the Senate has passed 20 percent more bills this year than by the same point during the 2011 session.

Bills pertaining to “other post employment benefits” and granting tax incentives to those wanting to build an ethane cracker in West Virginia passed early in the session. Kessler expects the Senate to address the issues of mine safety and teacher evaluations – measures already passed in the House – before it adjourns March 10.

He noted the following bills he sponsored have passed the Senate and could get consideration in the House this week.

– Senate Bill 437 – Would addresses growing substance abuse issues in West Virginia, including the regulation of opioid treatment programs in the state and updating rules for opioid treatment program facilities.

– Senate Bill 477 – Would prohibit the possession of wild and exotic animals. It would require a permit for those in possession of such animals on the effective date and provide for limited exceptions to the prohibition and for removing the animals if they are being kept in violation.

– Senate Bill 479 – Would create and fund the Spay Neuter Assistance Fund. Money resulting from a fee assessed to commercial feed manufacturers would be used to pay for spay and neuter programs throughout West Virginia. The intent is to decrease the number of animals euthanized in West Virginia animal shelters.

Kessler, on behalf of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, also sponsored SB 211, which creates traffic offenses for texting or using hand-held wireless communication devices while driving. He hopes the measure will get consideration this week, though it has been before the House Judiciary Committee since Feb. 7.