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True Two-Party System Better

February 4, 2014
The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

The "us vs. them" partisan politics that prevails in the state Legislature does no service to West Virginians, especially when a good idea is ignored or even actively blocked because of its proponents' party affiliations.

Several weeks ago, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey suggested state agencies, possibly even the Legislature itself, should be audited regularly. His recommendation came after a special audit of the Department of Agriculture turned up irregularities.

Too many Mountain State residents seem resigned to the corruption in government that rears its head on a regular basis. Morrisey's idea would both serve as a deterrent to that and as a means of reassuring voters they have not put crooks in office.

But the proposal was not received well by Democrats who control both houses of the Legislature. Morrisey is a Republican. One wonders how leading lawmakers would have reacted had the audit proposal come from a Democrat.

It will not be simply "filed and forgotten," however. Reportedly, Delegate Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson, plans to introduce a bill to require regular audits of state agencies. Several other legislators have expressed interest in the idea, and may sponsor or co-sponsor audit measures.

But all the potential supporters listed by Morrisey's office are Republicans. All four also represent counties in the Eastern Panhandle.

While Republicans hold enough seats in the House of Delegates to make a realistic effort on the bill's behalf, such is not the case in the state Senate.

Even expressing interest in the proposal, without formally signing on as a co-sponsor, can be dangerous for a Democrat lawmaker. Delegate Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, formerly was a Democrat - but switched parties in part because leaders of his party made clear their displeasure with his bipartisan attitude toward state government.

By itself, Democrat control of the Legislature is not a good thing. West Virginians have not enjoyed the benefits of a true two-party system in decades. Democrat opposition to Morrisey's recommendation is evidence, if any more was needed, of why one-party, ironclad control of the legislative process does not serve Mountain State residents well.

 
 

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