Miss. bill aimed at limiting Hood's authority refiled

Jessica M. Karmasek Feb. 14, 2012, 12:25pm



JACKSON, Miss. (Legal Newsline) - A bill aimed at limiting Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood's authority has been refiled.

House Bill 211, also referred to as the Sunshine Act, would allow state officials, agencies, boards, commissions, departments or institutions to hire their own outside attorneys over the state's top lawyer.

On Monday, the House Judiciary A Committee passed the bill to the House floor for debate, according to the state Legislature's website.

A similar measure, HB 122, was killed last week after experts found it broke parliamentary rules.

House Speaker Philip Gunn, the Republican who sponsored the legislation, along with its newest version, said he was forced to kill the previous bill.

Gunn, who filed the corrected HB 211 Friday, is among those Republicans who have been trying for years to limit Hood's powers.

Hood argues that the legislation violates the Mississippi Constitution, which gives the attorney general the sole authority to speak in court with one voice on behalf of the State.

He also took issue with how state lawmakers handled the first version of the bill last week.

Hood, the only Democrat to hold a statewide elected office, went as far as accusing them of "railroading" the measure through the Legislature.

In particular, he was upset he wasn't permitted to testify against it at House committee hearing.

"The attorney general is put in place to defend the State's interests and to provide a unified voice to the State on all legal matters," Hood said in a statement last week.

"If this bill passes, then agency heads with agendas and interests of their own will be allowed to pursue those interests on the taxpayers' dime over the State's interest as a whole with no oversight."

Lawmakers told Mississippi Public Broadcasting that there is no timeline for a vote on the bill, but said they want to move it "as soon as possible."

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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Mississippi Attorney General
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