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Kessler hopes to avoid logjam in second half of legislative session

With a little more than 20 days left in this year's session, the state Senate has already finished work on two major pieces of legislation, the cornerstones of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's legislative agenda.

Senators unanimously passed Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's education reform bill on Monday. On Thursday, they passed the governor's prison overcrowding bill with a unanimous vote.

Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, said he wanted to move those bills through the upper chamber as quickly as possible to avoid having to work on the bills during the traditional end-of-session logjam.

In fact, Kessler said he hopes to avoid a logjam altogether this year. He said he would like to see lawmakers finish all their duties by April 13 and go home.

Legislators typically work until the midnight hour that day, shuttling bills between the two chambers so they can pass before the Legislature must adjourn.

If Kessler gets his way, "there will be nothing to do at midnight," he said.

Kessler hopes to use the body's remaining time together to work on some of his pet bills, like a natural gas trust fund.

The bill would set a baseline of natural gas excess tax revenue, and then funnel 25 percent of any money over that baseline into a trust fund. Eventually, with enough money in the account, Kessler said West Virginia would begin to draw huge amounts of interest on that cash.

That will help the state shore up its budget in the long run. Kessler said Alaska has a similar trust fund, and residents there do not pay income tax and receive a yearly check just for living in the state.

"I've run into very few people who don't think it's a good idea," he said.



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