Last year, I made an ambitious promise to the people of West Virginia. Some thought it was crazy, others thought it was impossible. But I pledged to accomplish 17 specific goals to advance ethics reforms, promote freedom, begin the process of taking on the federal government and improve the state’s business climate in my first 100 days in office.
The 100th day was April 23 and, while much more work remains, I firmly believe we have honored our promises to the public and have put forth our best efforts to advance all of the points of the plan. I’d like to take this opportunity to share the goals and the steps we have taken thus far to achieve them. Here are some highlights; a full 12-page report is available on our website at wvago.gov.
n Eliminate self-promoting trinkets emblazoned with the Attorney General’s name or likeness. On Feb. 10, the Attorney General’s Office implemented a new trinket policy generally prohibiting the office from using public funds to purchase self-promoting trinkets. We also adopted internal policies limiting how the Attorney General’s name or likeness is placed on consumer protection education materials and prohibiting the office from using state vehicles in parades.
n Send settlement monies back to the State Legislature and taxpayers. In January, the office changed the language used in its settlement agreement forms so that all monies, outside of those funds necessary to recoup the cost of consumer protection outlays, are directed toward the West Virginia Legislature and taxpayers. The office also worked with the governor and lawmakers on a landmark reform bill to fundamentally change the process in which we handle state settlement funds. No longer will the Attorney General dole out money as he or she sees fit.
n End taxpayer-funded campaigns by prohibiting the use of broad-based office advertising for at least six months prior to an election. Elected officers should not use taxpayer monies to issue expensive election-year advertising; our new practice restricts advertising with the officeholder’s name or likeness during an election year.
n Establish and use competitive bidding for hiring outside counsel. On March 20, we approved a draft outside counsel policy to establish the use of a competitive bidding process when outside counsel are appointed to represent the state. We currently are accepting comments on the policy, which can be viewed on the office’s website.
n Commence a full-scale audit of past expenditures and ensure that all employees are acting in a manner consistent with the highest ethical standards. Shortly after taking office, we began working with the West Virginia Legislative Auditor’s Office on an audit to determine whether past expenditures were spent appropriately and in accordance with court orders and state law. The audit process is ongoing. However, the office already has instituted internal controls to refine the way certain expenditures are made.
n Collaborate with the Legislature to enact ethics reforms. The Attorney General’s office has collaborated with members of the House of Delegates on bills to prohibit using public funds for self-promotional trinkets and broad-based advertisements and codify the outside counsel policy. Additionally, we supported a resolution seeking a constitutional amendment limiting the state attorney general to two consecutive terms. Unfortunately, the Legislature has yet to act on these important initiatives, but we will continue to press for these reforms next year.
n Hold a “Jobs Summit” to identify any and all overreaching regulations that may impair business growth in the State of West Virginia. On April 17, 2013, the office hosted a Jobs Summit kickoff event in the State Capitol that more than 50 people attended. Soon, our office will conduct Jobs Summit forums in Jefferson County. The Eastern Panhandle has different economic needs than other parts of the state.
n Educate West Virginians on Health Care. In partnership with DHHR, the office hosted the first in a series of telephone town hall meetings April 18 to educate consumers and seniors on important issues regarding West Virginians’ rights and responsibilities on health care matters. Nearly 1,700 seniors participated in that event.
n Fight prescription drug abuse. In March, I joined with 47 other attorneys general in a letter encouraging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to make generic pain pills harder to abuse. We also partnered with the Division of Protective Services to participate in the sixth National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. These are preliminary efforts to begin affecting one of our state’s worst epidemics. We will be spending a considerable amount of time over the next year addressing both the supply and demand sides of this critical issue.
n Defend Second Amendment rights: The office worked closely with the Legislature on S.B. 369 which expands gun reciprocity agreements with other states regarding concealed carry permits. The bill improves the office’s ability to enter into future reciprocity agreements
Beyond these 10 initiatives, our Office also took critical steps to fulfill our other seven “First 100-Day” promises. Because I believe in transparency, I have posted all of the relevant details on our website.
Rome wasn’t built in a day; making sweeping changes to West Virginia’s business climate and addressing other key challenges won’t happen in 100 days. But I believe strongly in West Virginia’s incredible promise and see a pathway toward making significant improvements in our state’s ethics and economic well-being. We are still far from where we need to be, but we are making progress.
— Patrick Morrisey is a resident of Shannondale and the first state attorney general from Jefferson County