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The Intelligencer - Kessler: Politics to Blame for Killed Bills

News Article

Location: Wheeling, WV

Claims special election positioning stymied measures

By Joselyn King

Legislation pertaining to Marcellus Shale drilling regulations, texting while driving and managing the state's pension debts failed to come to vote in West Virginia House of Delegates during the recent regular session of the West Virginia Legislature, and state Sen. Jeff Kessler suspects special election year politics may have been the reason.

"I would like to say 'no,' but I suspect the failure of some bills to move may have been the result of political jockeying," Kessler acknowledged. "Some things may not have moved as they should because of concerns of things politically motivated.

"The OPEB (other post-employment benefits), and Marcellus Shale regulatory bills dying - I found that troubling."

Also not getting a vote in the House was Kessler's bill to establish an intermediate court of appeals in the state. He also was the lead sponsor of the Marcellus Shale regulatory bill. The legislation all passed the Senate, but didn't to come to vote in the House.

Kessler, D-Marshall, is a current Democratic candidate for governor of West Virginia, as are acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin of Logan County, House Speaker Richard Thompson of Wayne County; Secretary of State Natalie Tennant; state Treasurer John Perdue; and Charleston resident Arne Moltis.

State Sen. Clark Barnes of Randolph County and Delegate Mitch Carmichael of Jackson County are on the Republican ticket, as are former Secretary of State Betty Ireland of Charleston, former Delegate Larry Faircloth of Berkeley County; Putnam County Prosecutor Mark Sorsaia, and three first-time candidates - Cliff Ellis, Ralph William Clark and Bill Maloney, all of Monongalia County.

Kessler said he was especially disappointed in the failure of the Marcellus Shale regulatory bill to be considered in the House.

"We tried to get a bill through the House, get it into conference committee and get it passed," he said.

The texting bill did make it to the point of a conference committee to reconcile legislation passed by both the House and Senate, but the House did not appoint any members to the committee and the bill died, he noted.

"We could have had a much more productive session if we had had more conference committees," Kessler said.

Kessler assumed the role of acting senate president at the start of the session, after Senate members elected Tomblin senate president - a position that moved Tomblin into the role as acting governor.

Kessler previously served as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and he termed the role of acting senate president as being more administrative.

"I was the traffic cop where had to oversee all 18 committees," he said. "As chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I was consumed with directing the public policy of state, and I let the Finance Committee deal with the funding.

"This time, my role was one of comprehensive oversight - directing the flow of legislation rather than drafting it, which I had done in the past. This year involved administrative and operational involvements."

Kessler is nevertheless pleased with his new role in the Senate.

"What I'm doing now is fine," he said. "I had been doing the other since 2003. This is a change of pace, and I have more direct involvement with the finances of the state."

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