The Senate has just voted to pass the Sunshine Act, SB 2084. If it becomes law, the act would allow state agencies to bypass the attorney general's office and choose their own attorneys.
Democrats say the bill is an attempt to reduce the influence of Attorney General Jim Hood, the only statewide Democratic office holder.
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves sent out a statement today praising the bill:
Senate Bill 2084, the Sunshine Attorney Act, requires the Attorney General to award contracts to private attorneys for specialized cases through a transparent process. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Joey Fillingane, also allows agency directors to hire private counsel when needed. An independent council will approve or deny the request for private attorneys. The measure also requires the Attorney General to give notice to an agency before pursuing legal action on behalf of the agency.
"This bill simply shines a light on how legal contracts are awarded in Mississippi," Lt. Gov. Reeves said. "Taxpayers deserve to know who is benefitting financially from legal action on behalf of the state. Agencies should have the ability to hire and pay legal counsel without first getting approval from the Attorney General, which can often be a long and arduous process."
Currently, agencies are limited to representation by an attorney assigned by the Office of the Attorney General, which can create conflicts when the attorney general refuses to handle a case on behalf of the agency or takes a legal stance opposite the agency's interest.
While serving as State Treasurer, Reeves said the Office of the Attorney General was a roadblock to join the successful effort to direct a legal settlement from the nonprofit Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi to Mississippi taxpayers via the Health Care Trust Fund. The Office of the Attorney General refused to represent taxpayers' interest in the case and delayed Reeves' efforts to hire outside counsel to pursue the case. The dispute caused needless delay in a legal case that was ultimately settled in favor of Mississippi taxpayers, resulting in payments of $20 million annually to state.
I find it interesting how Republicans name their "bills" things that are actually the opposite of what the bill really does... like the "Patriot Act"