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Oversight

New Department Still Needs Accountability

If you have been wondering what is going on at the recently created West Virginia Department of Economic Development, you’re not alone. Monday, House Technology and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Daniel Linville, R-Cabell, introduced House Bill 4001, which would create a Legislative Oversight Commission on Department of Economic Development Accountability.

“First and foremost, we want to make sure the dollars we’re deploying are done well,” Linville said. “The department was created last year and most other departments do have a legislative oversight commission that is tasked with overseeing and protecting and balancing the work they’re doing.”

Though it is tempting to say the last thing West Virginia needs is another government layer, in this case it is sorely needed, and lawmakers should quickly make it happen.

Much of what the new department says it is doing used to be handled by the Department of Commerce. But, creation of a Department of Economic Development also created the need for a director — a post that appeared to have been tailor-made for the person who filled it. Former Republican state Senate President Mitch Carmichael is also a former employee of both Frontier Communications and Bridgeport-based communications provider Citynet.

And, though his new office so far gives the appearance of doing good work, lawmakers have every right to want to know more about that work.

“From a policy perspective, we want to make sure those policies that we attempt to put into place are being followed through upon, and that we keep the dialogue open between the executive branch and the legislative branch all throughout the year on these initiatives,” Linville said.

He is right; and some of the pieces of the bill meant to serve as a layer of consumer protection are important, too.

Yes, our state is in desperate need of as many hands on deck working toward economic diversification and growth as possible. That need should not exempt those doing the work from the same oversight given to all other departments.

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