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Republicans Target Attorney General With ‘Sunshine’ Bill

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 07 Feb 2012 06:39pm | comments
Jim Hood rails against the 'sunshine' bill.

Mississippi's lone statewide elected Democrat is in the middle of a political battle with the Republican leadership of the legislature. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that Republicans are pushing a bill that would let state agency heads hire lawyers without the approval of the Attorney General.

A bill that would allow state agency heads to hire lawyers without the A-G's permission passed the House judiciary A committee yesterday.

Attorney General Jim Hood quickly denounced the bill, saying outside attorneys would cost the state money, not represent tax payer interest, and cause chaos in the court.

"This bill that they have railroaded through will allow an agency director to hire their attorney and they come to court and say 'I represent the state'. And then our attorneys are there and they say 'no, we represent the state'. And it is just going to create chaos in the court," Hood said.

Republicans have been trying for years to find a way to limit the authority of the Attorney General, often calling their bill the sunshine law.

House Judiciary A Chairman Mark Baker of Brandon says the bill would give state agency heads and statewide elected officials power to hire lawyers when they feel Hood can't adequately represent the agency.

"The Attorney General does not, should not, have crate blanche authority to dictate the policy of the state of Mississippi in lawsuits that may be filed against the state of Mississippi or which may be filed by the state of Mississippi when it comes to individual departments, agencies, things such as this," Baker said.

Speaker of the House Phillip Gunn is a primary author of the bill.

Even before his election as speaker, he made it known that this bill would be a top priority.

"Millions of taxpayer dollars and the Attorney General just does not have the authority to do that. The legislature is the one charged with the responsibility to pass out money. And we are going to take care of that," Gunn said.

The measure also has the support of Lt. Governor Tate Reeves.

The bill could be voted on in the full house as soon as tomorrow.

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Jim Hood rails against the 'sunshine' bill.


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