W.Va. Attorney General Patrick hosted a forum Tuesday afternoon at the Logan County Courthouse with the goal of getting opinions and comments from county residents.
“We have been holding these forums across the state because we are trying to hear what is on the mind of people across West Virginia,” Morrisey said. “The fact is that the needs of Logan County are different from the needs of Jefferson County which is different from the needs of Charleston.”
Before opening the floor up to the public, Morrisey spoke about what the Attorney General’s Office has been accomplishing since he took office in January.
Morrisey said West Virginia is facing significant challenges and the state needs to get in front of the challenges.
“I am committed, as Attorney General for the State, to do everything in my power to put West Virginia first,” Morrisey said. “And to try to advance our State’s economic interests.”
Morrisey referred to the amount of money coming out of Washington and that 36 percent of West Virginia’s budget comes from the Federal government.
“Does anyone think that they will continue?” Morrisey said. “I certainly don’t.”
Morrisey said he was optimistic for West Virginia because it had things going for it.
“When you know you are sitting on incredible natural resources — we are the third largest producer of energy in the nation — that’s incredible. That represents potential for our children,” Morrisey said.
Morrisey said that West Virginia had a competitive wage compared to a lot of neighboring states and was strategically positioned to 180 million people and the major metropolitan markets in the U.S.
“That provides West Virginia with an opportunity to flourish in a new world environment,” Morrisey said.
Morrisey said he has been updating the AG’s office since taking office by hiring new, qualified lawyers; looking at ethics reform, and fundamentally changed how outside counsel is hired by looking at not who you know but what qualifications you bear and putting in place competitive bidding.
“Everything we do that requires outside counsel is published on our website,” Morrisey said. “If you are a lawyer, and if you are looking to bid and you are qualified then you can go the website to see if there is an opportunity for you.”
Morrisey said that by hiring quality lawyers, he can provide good, sound legal counsel for State agencies.
Morrisey said he has eliminated a lot of nonsense from the AG’s office, referring to the spending of tax monies to purchase trinkets with the AG’s name on it, and by publicly stating that he has limited his time in office to two terms.
“This isn’t something you should be in for life,” Morrisey said.
Morrisey said reforms in the AG’s office have laid the groundwork that will allow him to tackle the critical issues facing West Virginia.
“Those critical issues clearly relate to our economy,” Morrisey said. “The fact is West Virginia, despite all of its incredible opportunity and its natural resources, is still ranked at the bottom of most major economic rankings. I want to do everything in my power to change that because there should be no reason why West Virginia shouldn’t be leading the pack across the board.”
Morrisey said that the biggest problem facing West Virginia is an over reaching Federal government.
“Since taking office, we have been focused like a laser beam on ways we can help our State’s coal industry… because we know they have been under attack by the Federal government,” Morrisey said.
Morrisey said his office is able to work well with the governor’s office and with the Department of Environmental Protection.
“Because when it comes to coal issues and our natural resources, we all have to work together,” Morrisey said. “I have been very proud of the fact that, despite political affiliations, I have been able to partner up with the governor, partner up with the DEP.”
Morrisey said that when the W.Va. AG files a suit to stop a particular regulation, that is good.
“But you know what is better? Its better when you can have the governor, the DEP and five to ten to fifteen to twenty state Attorney Generals joining your cause,” Morrisey said. “Because then W.Va.’s voice is magnified.”
Morrisey said bringing litigation forward against regulations is a jobs issue.
“We know that the coal industry has been suffering here in West Virginia,” said Morrisey. “That is why we are partnering with all these other states over these issues. We’re likely to have several matters before the U.S. Supreme Court by the end of the year.”
Morrisey said he had a goal for the Obama agenda.
“If we can gum up the courts enough over the course of the next four years to be able to slow down the Obama administration on these regulations, I think that is going to be the best we can do,” Morrisey said. “You know why? Because the President has certain powers and the AG’s has some powers to muck up the works a little bit. But until we can get a new President in place, we’re going to have to find ways to gum things up and make sure we can ride it out until times are a little bit better.”
Morriesy also he felt that he needed to take information around to the counties to let people know that the AG’s Office can do a lot to help with W.Va.’s economy.
“We’re here to listen to the challenges that are occurring in the coalfields because I want our office to be responsive to you,” Morrisey said.
Morrisey then took questions and comments from the public attending. Topics included low voter turnout, drug abuse, elected public officials and their public service, insurance, mining regulations, timbering, mountain top mining and more.
Following the forum, Morrisey spoke exclusively with The Logan Banner.
“I think it is important to come down to Logan and listen to the challenges this county faces. I’m optimistic that working collaboratively with the governor and the DEP and all the elected officials in putting West Virginia first we can make a difference,” Morrisey said. “We heard a lot of diverse perspectives tonight… that’s good. In many aspects, it’s just important to listen than talking and to educate people on what our office is doing.”