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Bill limiting Miss. AG's authority dead for breaking rules

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Feb 10, 2012



JACKSON, Miss. (Legal Newsline) - A bill that would have taken away some of Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood's authority is dead.

According to the Legislature's website, House Bill 122 was "ruled improperly before House" Thursday.

The measure would've allowed state officials, agencies, boards, commissions, departments or institutions to hire their own outside attorneys over the state's top lawyer.

The measure also would require the attorney general or any other state official who pays a lawyer more than $100,000 to put the contracts online. Hood is already doing so, voluntarily.

Earlier this week, the attorney general accused state lawmakers of "railroading" the bill through the Legislature.

Hood -- the only Democrat to hold a statewide elected office -- argued the legislation violated the Mississippi Constitution, which gives the attorney general the sole authority to speak in court with one voice on behalf of the State.

But what irked him even more was how the bill was being handled by lawmakers, and that he wasn't permitted to testify against it at a 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 Tuesday.

"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."

House Speaker Philip Gunn, the Republican who sponsored the legislation, told The Associated Press he was forced to kill his own bill.

Experts found it broke parliamentary rules, he said.

Gunn -- among those Republicans who have been trying for years to limit Hood's powers -- told the AP he plans to file a corrected version of the measure and the House Judiciary A Committee could consider it as soon as Monday.

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

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