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Senate votes to end Future Fund investment account meant to capitalize on shale gas severance taxes

MORGANTOWN — A severance-tax investment fund once considered a great hope for the state is now heading for the dustbin.

SB 444 will formally terminate the Future Fund. The Senate approved the bill on Tuesday and sent it to the House.

Talk of a Future Fund began back in 2011 as the Marcellus shale boom started rolling. Other states had them, accumulating hundreds of millions, even billions of dollars. Former Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, was a leading advocate.

And a Future Fund bill finally passed in 2014, his last session as president. The bill’s passage though, was just part of the legislative background noise, as all eyes were focused on the Freedom Industries chemical spill and the ensuing, massive above-ground tank bill.

The bill dedicated 3% of annual severance-tax collections to the fund. These were lean budgetary years and the bill included various exceptions: no money would go in if the governor tapped into the Rainy Day Fund or if there were mid-year spending cuts or hiring freezes. To allow the fund to build, it couldn’t be tapped until Fiscal Year 2020.

On the Senate floor on Tuesday, Finance chair Eric Tarr said the bill to terminate the fund came from the state Tax Department. Legislation passed last year made further transfers into it impossible, and there was, in fact, no money in the fund anyway.

EMS bill

At the other end of the Capitol, the House of Delegates passed an amended version of SB 83, to allow a “tactical medical professional” trained and certified in tactical combat casualty care and tactical emergency medical support to carry a gun while on duty with a law enforcement team.

The medical professional — EMTs, physicians, osteopaths, physician assistants and nurses — would have to be certified by the Law Enforcement Professional Standards Subcommittee of the Governor’s Committee on Crime, Delinquency and Corrections.

The medical professional would be protected from civil and criminal liability while performing with law enforcement.

The vote was 96-0 and it goes back to the Senate for amendment concurrence.

TWEET David Beard @dbeardtdp