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Morrisey talks about what his office is doing to improve economy

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey talked Wednesday at the state Chamber of Commerce's Annual Meeting and Business Summit about what his office is doing to improve the state's economy.

"We're going to have to make some major changes," Morrisey said at The Greenbrier. "All of these small and incremental reforms are not going to be sufficient for the state of West Virginia to succeed in the future."

He said part of that potential economic success depends on the leadership at the Attorney General's Office. Morrisey's office began with one important goal in January: "to improve the quality of lawyering operating in the Attorney General's Office," he said.

"We want folks in the state of West Virginia to know there is a very competent Attorney General's Office in place," he said. "We were fortunate enough to bring in some incredible talent. We have been able to transform our office and improve the quality of lawyering."

He said his office has also made the hiring of outside counsel more competitive and transparent.

"That's important because we know the friends and family plan of the past was not the right way to handle the hiring of outside counsel," Morrisey said. "We are operating in a much more transparent environment within the office of the Attorney General."

The office would request bids, publish bids, to create an environment where everyone has a shot to compete.

"Effectively, we've put an end to the nonsense that existed in this office in the past," he said.

Morrisey and his predecessor, longtime Attorney General Darrell McGraw, have publicly argued over issues since last year's campaign.

Most recently, Morrisey alleged in July that McGraw spoke to him about a lawsuit against drug manufacturer Cardinal Health during a campaign stop in 2012. Morrisey's wife, Denise Henry, has lobbied for Cardinal Health.  

According to Morrisey, McGraw implied that he filed the lawsuit against the drug company to retaliate against Morrisey. McGraw said he never spoke to Morrisey about the Cardinal Health case.       

One of the bigger issues Morrisey's office is taking on to stimulate the state's economy is regulation, he said.

"One of the major activities we've been working on is to identify regulations that have excessive burdens on the state of West Virginia and if we find out that there are regulations that need to be changed, perhaps working with our state agency clients can help individuals and businesses comply with the law in a less burdensome matter," he said.

Additionally, the Attorney General's Office established an internal substance abuse task force.

"Substance abuse is a jobs issue and we must attack it with vigor," Morrisey said. "We don't ever want to hear an employer can't find good employees because of drug problems. That's unacceptable."

The task force consists of five individuals focusing on analyzing the problem from both a supply-and-demand perspective. He added that his office would have big announcements with regard to fighting substance abuse.

"We're doing everything in our power to make sure West Virginia reaches its economic potential," he said.

Also Wednesday: 

Rev. Matthew Watts, CEO of HOPE Community Development in Charleston, said he wants education to catch up with technology.

"What's needed is reengineering and redesign to meet emerging workforce needs," Watts said.

He wants his neighborhood, Charleston's West Side, to have the same type of commitment to academic excellence that "we do in football."

Additionally, he said it's important to realize that "every child doesn't come to school with the same advantages."

Former West Virginia House of Delegate member and educator Josh Stowers said students need vocational options earlier. He'd like students in the seventh- and eighth-grade to know there are ways to be successful other than a four-year degree.

"There are jobs out there," Stowers said. "It's getting students to the point that they're finishing [school]."

Kathy D'Antoni, assistant superintendent for the West Virginia Department of Education, said the largest obstacle in West Virginia's education future is getting students excited about learning.

"If you watch a bus stop in the morning ... the kids going into first-grade are so happy and by third-grade, they hate it," she said. "The number one key is turning kids on to education."

Del. Amanda Pasdon, R-Monongalia and the minority chairwoman for the House Education Committee, cited her business background in supporting charter schools in the state.

"Any market competition improves a market, and with that being said, I'd be in favor of charter schools," Pasdon said.

Reach Caitlin Cook at caitlin.coolk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.  

 


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