CHARLESTON - West Virginia Attorney General-elect Patrick Morrisey said he immediately will call for a full-scale audit of the expenses of the state attorney general's office after he is sworn in on Jan. 14.
Morrisey addressed reporters and supporters on the steps of the state Capitol on Thursday - less than two days after defeating five-term incumbent Darrell McGraw in Tuesday's general election. The 44-year-old Eastern Panhandle lawyer Morrisey is West Virginia's first Republican attorney general since 1933.
Morrisey on Thursday outlined his 17-point plan for reforming the office in his first 100 days as attorney general.
"I wanted everyone to know we started our transition team at 8 a.m. Wednesday and have already made progress," Morrisey said.
His team already has met with representatives of the current attorney general's staff, the West Virginia Secretary of State's Office and the West Virginia Ethics Commission, he said. They also spoke with the office of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, and Morrisey plans to meet with Tomblin sometime in the next week, noting he will seek to establish relationships with the state's Democrat leaders.
"I'm going to try," he said. "Anyone who wants to put West Virginia first, we will work with. Our focus is on jobs and creating business opportunities in the state."
Morrisey wants a say in how the state operates Medicaid and plans to play a role in whether it follows the recently upheld federal health care law. Morrisey previously practiced health care law with a Washington, D.C., firm, and was an aide and lawyer for GOP members of Congress and committees. A foe of the federal health care overhaul, he made it and President Barack Obama - who received less than 36 percent of the West Virginia vote Tuesday - major targets of his campaign.
"I'm going to work hard to try to ensure that those bad parts of Obamacare don't go into effect," Morrisey said.
Concerning Medicaid, Morrisey said he plans to share his health care background with the governor. Rising health care costs have increased the program's burden on the annual state budget. Tomblin is also weighing whether to expand its coverage, as called for by the federal health care law but ruled non-mandatory by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Morrisey said the office audit will review office staff, spending and resources. And it will start after he officially takes the post.
"I can't do it before, because I don't have access to the information," he said. "Once complete, we can start to reprioritize resources to the areas that need it most."
Morrisey said he wants to maintain the state's consumer protection efforts established under McGraw and make sure they continue to have appropriate funding. He thanked McGraw for his service in the area of consumer protection and for "the good things has done for the state."
Morrisey said he will eliminate the use of "self-promoting trinkets" bearing the attorney general's name and prohibit the the use of broad-based office advertising for at least six months prior to an election.
He also wants to collaborate with the Legislature to enact ethics reforms. Morrisey said while he can enact ethical reform as attorney general, it takes a move by state lawmakers to make them permanent.
"For example, while a Patrick Morrisey attorney general administration can unilaterally return money to the Legislature and the taxpayers, it would be best if the Legislature establishes such a policy permanently through a statutory change," Morrisey said.
Morrisey hopes to take on the federal EPA after reviewing all existing lawsuits pending by attorneys general. After this, he said, he will meet with state leaders to determine which suits the state should join against the federal government.
And he faulted the state for not joining a lawsuit against one regulatory rule, meant to reduce downwind pollution from power plants, and said it hasn't done enough to fight for permits needed by one of West Virginia's largest mountaintop removal mines.
In his office, he plans to create an "Office of Federalism and Freedom" specializing in federal and constitutional law.
Morrisey also wants the office to take a more active role in prosecuting election fraud. He believes the attorney general - given its broad enforcement powers - can play a role in pursuing election fraud and public corruption than can the secretary of state's office, and this authority "should be invested in the state's chief legal officer." The change would require an act by the Legislature, he continued.
"I would like to work with the secretary of state's office to better clarify prosecutorial authority," Morrisey said. "I want them to know they have an ally to help them prosecute election fraud."