CHARLESTON – West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey describes the recently completed 2015 legislative session as a good first step for West Virginia.

The state Legislature recently finished the first session with Republicans controlling both houses in more than eight decades. As the only Republican in the state’s executive branch, Morrisey said good things happened over the course of those 60 days.

“The way I would describe is that the Legislature took some good first steps to address the longstanding problems facing the state,” said Morrisey, the state’s first Republican AG since 1933. “They made needed changes to legal system, they dealt with prevailing wages.

He said one key issue lawmakers tackled was how the state might deal with a Section 111 (d) rule from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for carbon pollution standards under the Clean Air Act.

“That could have a devastating effect on West Virginia,” Morrisey said. “But they worked to give the state more of an opportunity to submit a plan to the EPA. It will provide additional leverage for our office in court.

“We’re pleased with some of the regulatory measures we saw. But, we need to make West Virginia coal more competitive with other states. We need measures to do that that still don’t compromise worker safety.”

Despite the progress, Morrisey said there still is plenty for the Legislature to do for the state.

“There are other areas I’m excited about for the future,” he said. “There will be more tax and budget reform. We need to do that. We need to become more competitive with the states we touch.

“And there will be a focus on infrastructure and education. They took some good first steps, but there’s still a lot more work to do.”

One bill Morrisey was pleased to see passed was House Bill 2457, which prevents elected officials from using public funds to place their name or likeness on items. It has been called the “Trinkets Bill” Critics often pointed to longtime state Attorney General Darrell McGraw’s use of such trinkets. Patrick Morrisey used this as part of his 2012 campaign when he defeated McGraw.

“I applaud actions by lawmakers in both the House and Senate in passing a bill banning the use of taxpayer money to buy trinkets with an office holder’s name or likeness and to reduce state government spending on self-promoting advertisements during an election year,” Morrisey said. “This bill is about good government and wisely using taxpayers’ hard-earned money.

“But there is more to do to clean up some of the waste of taxpayer money that still exists.”

A bill that didn’t get passed was one to codify Morrisey’s rules for hiring outside counsel. McGraw was criticized for appointing campaign contributors as special assistant AGs. Morrisey enacted a policy to open the process to bidding.

“We’re hopeful they’ll move that next year,” he said. “They know we’re already implementing the policy independently. But it needs to be made law because it’s good government. It represents transparency and saves money.

“Since July 2014, this policy has saved the state about $4 million. That’s nothing to sneeze at. Future officeholders need to be bound to good government policies, such as reforming how outside counsel are hired. It has worked. We’ve taken the right approach.”

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