Editorials, Opinion

AGs should have to put lawsuits to a public vote

Anytime the attorney general wants to pursue a lawsuit, it should have to be put up for a vote.

Not necessarily a full election-style vote. A survey or poll would suffice. Combining it with an open comment period like many civic offices must do before making big decisions might be a good idea.

The point being, of course, that every lawsuit brought by a state’s attorney general is funded by that state’s taxpayers’ money. And West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has been wasting a lot of taxpayer money on partisan pursuits that have no pay off.

Morrisey’s attempt to help overturn the last election comes to mind immediately. Back in December 2020, he joined a Texas lawsuit to invalidate the Electoral College votes of the battleground states Trump lost.

That unnecessary meddling in other states’ election protocols cost West Virginia taxpayers an unknown amount of money with zero chance of reimbursement because 1) Morrisey and his cohorts were never going to win that lawsuit, and 2) there was no financial component that would compensate taxpayers for footing the bill as the attorneys general showed off for Trump. He might settle for pittances, but at least Morrisey’s lawsuits against opioid makers and distributors have an end-goal with a dollar amount attached.

Most recently, Morrisey joined 23 other attorneys general in writing to President Biden, insisting he drop the new Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule requiring employers with at least 100 workers to have employees to get vaccinated or be tested weekly as a condition of employment. The letter stated the attorneys would explore “every available legal option” to stop Biden.

Since it’s unlikely Biden will back down on this vaccine “mandate,” we can expect Morrisey to waste more taxpayer money going after the federal government. However, according to a poll from The Economist and YouGov, 52% of adults approve of Biden’s new policy.  This national support for Biden’s policy illustrates why attorneys general should have to put lawsuits to a vote before pursuing them.

Perhaps the reason the majority of American adults are fine with a federal vaccine mandate is because, according to our nonexistent poll, 100% of people are sick of this pandemic and local leaders continue to pawn off responsibility for masking and vaccine requirements. As the sign on Harry Truman’s desk famously declared, the buck stops with the president. In the absence of definitive policies at local levels, Biden has no choice but to step up and implement national guidelines.

Here’s the thing about viruses: They aren’t sentient; they don’t understand borders. That’s why the patchwork approach of local guidelines during the last year and a half hasn’t been particularly effective. New Zealand has had only 27 COVID-related deaths over the course of the entire pandemic, even though only 40% of its population is vaccinated. Why? Because every time COVID pops up, the entire country shuts down.

Since the U.S. will not — and arguably cannot — successfully lock down, vaccination is the only option left. In the past, the Supreme Court has upheld the authority of businesses, schools and governments to mandate vaccination in order to protect public health and safety. If Morrisey and his 23 counterparts choose to take Biden to court over OSHA’s new rule, they will more than likely lose and will have wasted thousands, if not millions, of taxpayer dollars in the process. And people will still have to get vaccinated.