Petsonk explains focuses of AG campaign
By MetroNews Staff
September 30, 2019
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — One candidate running for attorney general is focusing much of his campaign on pensions and health care.
The move by Sam Petsonk makes sense given his law experience, in which he has argued on matters including benefits for coal miners and health insurance coverage.
“Up and down the line, we see people across the state struggling to access health care, struggling to make their way through the addiction crisis. I have seen those challenges in my law practice,” the Beckley-based attorney said. “I just believe that we can provide better leadership through our attorney general’s office.”
Petsonk, who lives in Fayette County, launched his campaign in August for the Democratic Party’s nomination.
During an appearance on Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline,” Petsonk spoke about his recent experience representing coal miners of operator Blackjewel, which declared bankruptcy in July.
“When their paychecks bounced this summer, one of the first things we did is we went to the state to see if the company had posted a wage bond as they’re required to do. Guess what? This company had never posted the wage bond they were required to post,” he said.
“Consequently, we had to scramble back to bankruptcy court like so many workers in West Virginia have had to do over and over again, and tried to clamor with all the other creditors to get people paid off. I’m glad to say that we’re succeeding with that effort, but our state should enforce our wage bond law. We should enforce our Wage Payment and Collection Act. That’s the kind of enforcement initiative that I’m talking about.”
Petsonk said he is not running solve problems the Legislature is responsible for handling, but the attorney general’s office must protect West Virginians.
Petsonk’s past experience with health care also drives his campaign; while working in the office of late U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd, the Senate passed the Affordable Care Act which included language allowing states to expand Medicaid. West Virginia was among the states that adopted such action.
“Not only does that help working families pay for insurance, but it helps people who are struggling with the addiction crisis to access treatment and succeed with long-term recovery,” Petsonk said.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is among the parties suing for the federal health care law to be repealed; the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in July regarding a ruling last year that struck down the law.
“Unfortunately, our attorney general has us attacking the largest payer source for addiction and recovery services in our state …so we’ve got to get right on that,” he said.
If the legal challenge to “Obamacare” is successful, it would also eliminate amendments to the Black Lung Benefits Act that made it the responsibility of coal companies to prove mining did not cause cases of black lung in coal miners.
“I do not understand why our state has gotten onto this litigation that would repeal the Byrd amendment, which is this major reform to the federal Black Lung Benefits program,” Petsonk said.
If elected, Petsonk said he would focus on increasing access to health care, lowering costs and protecting federal programs.
As for Morrisey, he is weighing out a possible third term as attorney general. He took part in a live Facebook video last week asking for donations, which will first go toward covering debt from the 2012 and 2016 contests.