‘Hellhole’ label fading in West Virginia

An editorial from The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register 

WHEELING, W.Va. — No one can say with certainty how many jobs have been lost to West Virginians because our state was viewed as a “judicial hellhole” for years. Executives seeking sites for new or expanded businesses may well have marked us off their lists without even contacting local or state economic development officials, after all.

But the reputation our state had as one in which the law and courts were stacked against businesses hurt. There is no doubt about that.

Earlier this year, state legislators began shining light down the dark tunnel that was the statutory environment facing businesses. Slowly but surely, word is spreading that West Virginia no longer deserves the “hellhole” label placed on us by a national organization.

On Tuesday, state Senate President William Cole II and House of Delegates President Tim Armstead were honored by the Institute for Legal Reform of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. They were recipients of the 2015 State Legislative Achievement Award, presented during ceremonies in Washington, D.C.

Cole, R-Mercer, and Armstead, R-Kanawha, were cited as “the architects of legal reform in a state that some considered a lost cause,” explained ILR?President Lisa Rickard.

Under their leadership, legislators approved an impressive package of reforms. What they did illustrates just how badly changes were needed.

One new law ensures defendants in lawsuits are held liable only for damages that are their responsibility. Another prevents “double dipping” in asbestos cases. A third guards against unreasonably high awards in lawsuits.

More work remains to be done to ensure that both plaintiffs and defendants in civil lawsuits are treated fairly and without bias.

But an excellent start has been made. Armstead, Cole and other lawmakers who made that possible deserve commendation. Their fellow Mountain State residents deserve the jobs a more welcoming reputation will bring to our state.

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