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WV attorney general launches jobs tour

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Attorney General Patrick Morrisey hosted a Jobs Summit and Listening Tour April 17 to hear ideas from the public about ways to improve the state's economy.

The initiative is part of Morrisey's 17-point plan for his first 100 days in office. He announced the initiative at a press event at the West Virginia State Capitol. The Jobs Summit and Listening Tour includes stops in all regions of the state so Morrisey can hear from constituents how government regulations help or hurt their businesses.

"There are different types of economies in West Virginia," Morrisey said. "The needs of the Eastern Panhandle are different from the needs of the Kanawha Valley, which are different from the Northern Panhandle and Southern West Virginia.

"We have to make sure we're analyzing issues that affect all parts of the state and no part of the state should be left behind in terms of job creation."

Morrisey's goals for the initiative include: identifying barriers to job creation and taking steps to remove those barriers that impede job growth; increasing private sector employment; attracting new capital and investments to foster manufacturing, construction and service industries, among others; enhancing West Virginia's competitiveness when compared to surrounding states; and improving the state's image to individuals and businesses outside the state.

"We all hear all the stories about West Virginia and its reputation," Morrisey said. "I'm not here to point fingers today. Take for example the issue of being known as a judicial hellhole. Regardless of whether you think that's true, there's a perception problem out there. We need to address that. Let's figure out what we can do to change these perceptions."

But the West Virginia Association of Justice disagrees with the judicial hellhole label. According to literature the organization provided, other studies found West Virginia's judicial system isn't as bad as some make it out to be.

According to the documents, "Hellhole report ‘never claimed to be an empirical study'," and the report was criticized by the New York Times.

The organization also claims West Virginia's legal and business climate is doing just fine. According to the documents, West Virginia ranks 39th among all states for the number of lawsuits filed per capita and $6.2 billion has been invested in West Virginia businesses since 2010.

Scott Blass, president of the West Virginia Association of Justice, said he hopes Morrisey sees much of the information about the state's judicial hellhole ranking is biased and has been discredited.

"One of the suggestions I hope to send to him is a significant amount of data that shows West Virginia is not a judicial hellhole," Blass said. "We're in the bottom third of lawsuits filed in the country."

Blass said much of the information is disseminated in an attempt to undermine consumer rights.

The West Virginia Republican Party issued a statement after the April 17 news conference, saying it supports Morrisey's agenda.

"Today, we are proud of our Attorney General Patrick Morrisey who is not only keeping a campaign pledge as promised, furthermore, he is actively working to improve West Virginia's business climate by listening to the hardworking citizens who voted him into office," said WVGOP Chairman Conrad Lucas. "The West Virginia Republican Party supports Attorney General Patrick Morrisey because he plans to improve our regulatory environment so we can read about West Virginia being 'open' for business in the news rather than 'closed.' It is through this kind of initiative that West Virginia will realize its economic potential."

Morrisey's office is accepting comments and feedback from the public. He encourages individuals to attend a stop on the listening tour, but also asks comments be emailed to communications@wvago.gov with the phrase Jobs Summit and Listening Tour in the subject line.