Thursday, January 19, 2017
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The Mississippi House has narrowly rejected a bill to limit the attorney general's powers.
But the bill is being held for another debate, and a Republican chairman needs to pick up just a few votes for the bill to pass and move to the Senate.
House Bill 555 would require the attorney general to receive permission from a three-member board before filing any lawsuit that might have at least a $250,000 award. Board members would be the governor, lieutenant governor and secretary of state. Currently, that would force the lone Democrat in statewide office to seek permission from Republicans.
Fourth-term Attorney General Jim Hood has sued several corporations, and those lawsuits have put tens of millions of dollars into the state budget. Hood announced the latest award Tuesday, saying Mississippi will receive $26 million from the credit rating agency Moody's Corp., which settled a multistate lawsuit that claimed it engaged in deceptive practices.
With Mississippi tax collections lagging in recent years, the awards have helped reduce the impact of state budget cuts.
"The recoveries have been absolutely remarkable," said Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville.
Holland, who opposed the bill, said to House Judiciary Committee A Chairman Mark Baker, who was pushing it: "I don't know what your problem is, other than you don't like the attorney general."
Baker, R-Brandon, said Hood hurts the state by suing corporations and by hiring private attorneys who could receive big payouts.
"It's just taxation by litigation," Baker said.
The bill failed with 58 voting for it and 60 against.
Most Republicans voted for the bill and most Democrats voted against it, though some from each side crossed party lines. Three Republicans and one Democrat did not vote.