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We should learn
 lesson from possible layoffs at FBI

The possible loss of 300 temporary jobs at Clarksburg’s FBI fingerprinting facility is disheartening news to an area that has been on the rebound. We applaud the efforts of city, county and state officials who recognized the potential problem well in advance and have vowed to work diligently to solve it.
    But, while there’s hope government officials can find a way to place the 300 employees who face layoffs in 2000 in other government positions, we agree with Ray Farley, executive director of the Harrison County Development Authority, who said this points out an important lesson.
    “Up and down the corridor we need to be cognizant that government contracts aren’t infinite,” Farley said. “Be it making airplanes or processing fingerprints.” That’s an important lesson that shouldn’t be lost on our leaders, even if they find a way to prevent the layoffs.
    While the Interstate 79 Corridor has been enjoying great economic development since the early 1990s, look around: Much of it is driven by government contracts from the West Virginia High Technology Consortium Foundation in Fairmont, to the FBI facility and aerospace development at the Benedum Airport complex.
    As Farley indicated, there’s no guarantee the trend will continue in Washington, D.C. It’s important that we diversify our economic base and seek out industries that can survive without government contracts and funding.
    The future of North Central West Virginia should be based more on investment by the private sector, not a political chess match in Washington.

Today’s editorial reflects the opinion of the Exponent editorial board, which includes William J. Sedivy, John G. Miller, Julie R. Cryser, James Logue, Kevin Courtney and Cecil Jarvis.

Gov. Underwood’s tort
reform bill won’t go
anywhere, but it should

    Once again Governor Cecil Underwood has a good idea for West Virginia. And once again the Democrat-laden state Legislature will turn up its collective nose. For the second consecutive year, the governor has introduced a tort reform bill. A sweeping tort reform bill crashed and burned last year. A much less encompassing bill has been rolled out this year, but House Speaker Bob Kiss, D-Raleigh, predicts it will share the same fate.
    The Fair Share of Responsibility Act introduced by the governor would limit the amount of damages a defendant has to pay in a civil suit according to the percentage of fault determined by a jury. In other words, if a jury determined a defendant in a lawsuit is only 25 percent responsible, the defendant only has to pay 25 percent of the damages.
    Under current law, a defendant who is partially responsible could be forced to pay all of the damages. The Republican-backed bill would cut down on the “deep pockets” phenomenon, in which the defendant who can most afford to pay damages is forced to pay a majority of the amount. More importantly, it would reduce “lawsuit lottery,” where plaintiff lawyers sue practically everyone in sight.
    Why does all this make sense? How about the fact that West Virginia has the highest tort costs per person in the nation? How about the fact that those out-of-line costs affect insurance rates for both businesses and private citizens. Why, then, would the Legislature likely not even take this bill to the floor for a vote? How about the fact that quite a few legislators are lawyers? How about the fact that lawyers play a big role in many of the county Democratic party organizations in the state?
    The bill does not in any way place new limits on the amounts that can be awarded in a civil suit. That is an area of tort reform that usually creates the most outcry from lawyers. This bill is about fairness in civil suits. The bill will go nowhere and, once again, special interests win out in West Virginia over common sense and the interests of the average citizen and taxpaying businesses in the state.
    Nothing new here. Just a continuing sad story that is the result of a state Legislature being controlled by one party.

Terry Horne
Telegram Editorial Board member

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Clarksburg Publishing Company, P.O. Box 2000, Clarksburg, WV 26302 USA
Copyright Clarksburg Publishing Company 1999