Speaker Gunn, Republicans Reload for Second Sunshine Act StandoffBy Daniel Cherry | Published 13 Feb 2012 09:03pm |
Republicans in the Mississippi House of Representatives continue to push a bill aimed at limiting the Attorney General's power to hire private attorneys and file lawsuits on behalf of the state. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports how after a failure last week, the bill is a step closer to becoming law.
The House Judiciary A Committee voted on party lines, passing House Bill 211 also known as the Sunshine Act to the House floor. The bill would allow state agency heads to hire their own attorneys when they feel Attorney General Jim Hood, the only Democrat holding statewide office, can't appropriately represent their agency. Hood says it's a waste of money.
"At a bare minimum just say lawyers that these agencies want to go out and hire cost $130 an hour, we charge $65/hr. That's going to cost the state $11 million more dollars for what they're talking about doing with this bill, and it's about partisanship whether or not the Republican lawyers are being hired."
A similar measure was killed last Thursday after heated debate when Democrats found errors with the bill. Speaker Philip Gunn who authored the bill, reloaded and filed a new bill with corrections on Friday. Now the new bill is through committee and set to hit the floor for debate. Mark Baker, a Republican and Judiciary A Committee Chairman says the law is badly needed.
"The Attorney General may well call it a waste. The truth of the matter is, without this, we are faced with a situation where we have agency heads who's agencies have actually filed lawsuits that they didn't even know they were filing. They're acually involved with matters they have no knowledge of. That's no the way to run a state government."
But House Democrats like Bob Evans say the bill is dangerous.
"You're making it an open range in the State of Mississippi for law firms to come in and represent these agency heads and these officers for monies already made available through the Attorney General's office to do these things."
Leaders say there is no definite timeline for a vote on the bill, but they say they want to move the measure as soon as possible.
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