By Sarah Mansheim
On Friday, Nov. 7, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey wrapped up his state-wide town hall meetings at WVSOM, only to be greeted by a small, fairly quiet group.
Morrisey has travelled West Virginia’s 55 counties holding forums, and Greenbrier County was his final stop. He began the forum by discussing the office of the attorney general, and the roles and limitations the office faces. Morrisey, a Republican, said his office is particularly dedicated to fighting federal overreach, specifically mentioning filing suit against the EPA’s carbon dioxide measures and “slicing regulatory burdens away in order to drive business and economic growth.”
The crowd was thin at WVSOM’s Roland P. Sharp Alumni Conference Center on Friday afternoon, and only six audience members asked questions. One audience member, Richard Bantel, spoke out against the difficulty of running a business in the Mountain State. Bantel said he holds a “professional license” in West Virginia and Maryland, and said West Virginia has made it so difficult to renew a business license and acquire surety bonds that he has ceased doing business in West Virginia altogether. The attorney general’s office is responsible for business license renewals.
“My business has not enjoyed customer friendliness from the attorney general’s office,” said Bantel.
Morrisey responded, “State statute says the attorney general’s office has to review business renewal forms. Our job is to uphold the law, even if we don’t agree with it. The new legislature will be better communicators. I am an advocate for making West Virginia more business friendly.”
Another audience member commended Morrisey’s decision to not fight same-sex marriage in West Virginia. While Morrisey didn’t say he supported or was against gay marriage, he said, “The attorney general’s office defends state laws. I literally had no other options. An attorney general cannot overrule the Supreme Court. Whether we agree with it personally or not, we’re always going to consistently apply the law.”
Gloria Martin of Lewisburg asked Morrisey what can be done in order to prevent opportunists from abusing elders through power of attorney. The AG responded that elder abuse issues are important to his office in Charleston, but she was the first to mention abuse through power of attorney during his state tour. He invited Martin to contact his office and suggested his community outreach department would address it in future forums.
“When it comes to seniors, we have to do everything to protect them,” he said. “We want to be proactive and address that.”
When audience member Patty Crawford expressed concern over the oil and gas industry’s damage to towns’ infrastructure, particularly roads and bridges, Morrisey responded he hopes the future legislative sessions will focus on investing in infrastructure, while also putting guidelines in place to protect the environment.
“We want to preserve infrastructure and the environment,” he said. “I moved to Harpers Ferry as an adult. I’m a West Virginian by choice. I love the outdoors and the beauty of this state.” He also mentioned that people who sell mineral leases on their land should never do so without the advice of an attorney.
WVSOM student Jake Lynch, president of the medical school’s student government, thanked the attorney general for coming to Greenbrier County, and said he appreciates Morrisey’s office’s transparency.
“I’m always available,” said Morrisey. “I post on Facebook. I post on social media. We try to be helpful.”