CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Speaker Tim Miley unveiled five measures late Sunday as the "first plank" of House Democrats' platform days before Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's State of the State address and the start of the 2014 legislative session.
House Democrats chose to focus their first five measures on government accountability in order to avoid finger pointing or partisanship in the pursuit of solving problems, Miley, D-Harrison, said in a news release.
"While Democrats can point to criminal activity within the Republican Party such as that of Arch Moore while he was Governor of West Virginia, Republicans can point to the criminal activities of elected Democrat officials in Mingo County," the release states.
The five proposals cover an array of issues, including increased scrutiny of how the state uses taxpayer money and how to address a conflict of interest for the state Attorney General.
A "Qui Tam" act, one that allows a private person to receive penalties for assisting a prosecution, would encourage employees who notice fraud or improper activity to come forward.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Tim Manchin, D-Marion, and other Democrats on the committee said the bill would encourage people to report fraud and give them an avenue to benefit financially.
"If an individual perceives wrongdoing, and cannot get the government to take action, that person would have the ability to initiate legal action," said Delegate Stephen Skinner, a Jefferson County Democrat and an attorney.
"This is the best 'good government' proposal I have seen since I was elected, and I am excited about it."
Miley mentioned the idea in a recent discussion of an audit examining the Department of Agriculture.
Although not released, Miley said the audit revealed potentially criminal activity involving payments, expenses and a "friends and family loan program" under previous Commissioner Gus Douglass.
The legislative auditor is scheduled to discuss the audit today, and could release the final report sometime this week.
Examining loans from the department and other agencies is another part of House leadership's platform.
"We must evaluate and restructure, or possibly eliminate, the West Virginia Department of Agriculture's
Rural Rehabilitation Loan program and other similar programs that may be found in other state agencies," House Agriculture Chairman David Walker, D-Clay, said in the news release.
"We must always be responsible for how state agencies spend money appropriated to them."
House Democrats are looking at the way the state Attorney General appropriates money as well.
Attorney General Patrick Morrisey campaigned on reforming the way the state distributes money it receives after settling lawsuits. The Republican blasted Democratic incumbent Darrel McGraw for little oversight as to how those settlement monies are used.
Former and current Democrat finance officials are leading the charge for a law change that sends all of that money to the General Revenue fund, allowing the Legislature to decide how to spend it.
In particular, Finance Committee Vice Chairman Doug Reynolds, D-Cabell, accuses Morrisey of giving his office more control of how settlement money is distributed.
"This is neither a Democrat nor a Republican issue," said Finance Committee Chairman Brent Boggs, D-Braxton.