Monday, February 6, 2012

So-called "Sunshine Act" rolled out under cover of darkness

During their short time in leadership, House Republicans have been a lot of things, transparent is not one of them.  The long awaited "Sunshine Act" is being forced through the process under the veil of darkness and will be placed in front of members of the House Judiciary B Committee in all of its glory at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow morning.  The bill was not available for review at close of business today but magically appeared online sometime this evening.

House Bill 122 is notable in that it delivers no "sunshine" or added accountability to the current pro-Mississippi litigation process.  A cursory review of the Act reveals that it is little more than a bare knuckled attempt to strip the Attorney General's Office of its Constitutional authority to manage litigation on behalf of the state and hold wrongdoers accountable.  It attempts to give state agencies, boards and commissions the unfettered ability to retain lawyers on a no-limit contingency fee basis and essentially subverts citizens' right to elect their own attorney.

If this bill were law, there would be no health care trust fund because then Governor Fordice and the Division of Medicaid could have stopped then Attorney General Mike Moore from filing the suit which resulted in a $4 billion settlement for Mississippi.  Further, had this proposed law been in effect, Mississippi would have been forced to settle the MCI Worldcom case for $3.5 million instead of the $100 million it ultimately received.

No Republican can say with a straight face that the current system doesn't work.  Over the last 7 years, the Attorney General has recovered over $500 million for the taxpayers of Mississippi without costing taxpayers a dime.

This is a politically motivated solution in search of a problem and proof that Republican "sunshine" is no more than a cynical ruse.

8 comments:

billy b said...

Oh Lordy yes, now I know why we elect those wonderful members of the Mississippi legislature, to go to Jackson on January 3rd and receive their salary, their daily "per-diem", their free parking space, their super-charged "slurp-pension", and throw-in plenty of free meals and booze from Insurance and Energy Industry lobbyists, and spend ONE MONTH doing nothing but basically trying to figure-out how to smear and harm the Mississippi Attorney general because they don't like him, personally or politically. Great government, just wonderful, putting so many people back to work in jobs that pay a decent wage and getting so many more of our citizens a college education and degree. Wow, I am soooooo impressed with our conservative state legislature, they really accomplish so very much on behalf of our taxpaying citizens, bravo, bravo...

bill said...

[Yawn] Billy, anytime you need a break just let me know. I can pretty much write your predictable rants now.

The problem isn't that the AG is suing people on behalf of the state. The problem is that he is enriching his friends in the process. There's nothing wrong with outside lawyers being paid a decent fee for their work, but the contingency fee payments that have resulted in millions upon millions being paid to cronies of the AG and his predecessor are wrong. Pay a normal hourly rate and take away the risk of losing for the outside counsel. There are still plenty of lawyers who will take the cases. Bill Billingsley

Cottonmouth said...

Bill, where's the money going to come from to pay these hourly rates? And the litigation costs?

jurisdeacon said...

Bill, in the words of Mark Twain, “It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.” You clearly know nothing about how this sort of litigation works. The process in place now works, just look at the results. The disparity in what the AG's office recovered in the MCI case vs. what the agency would have settled for is a perfect example of how it works and why this is a very bad bill.

James said...

I'm sorry, Jurideacon & Cottonmouth, Bill makes a good point. You just don't like it because it doesn't fit your view of trial lawyership. And CM, don't think you can find the "constitutional authority" you throw around quite openly. Even AG Hood used a court case to argue his point, not a constitutional authority. And the purpose of the legislature (at least according to my 9th grade Civics class) is to be an 'offsetting third' of the three-legged stool of government. If the judicial branch establishs "law" via a court ruling, the legislature can change that judicially made law via enacting of a statute.

Mississippi is one of a few states where the AG operates separately (because of his independent election) from the Executive Branch. No business could ever operate using the Hood method (his attorneys represent agencies, until he wants to challenge his attorney's works (not just Scott and the pardons; remember Medicaid and plaids?) and play populist to the masses.

Its time to place the AG where he is supposed to be in the operation of our State's government. I'll be glad to call Chairman Baker tonight and thank him for beginning this process.

billy b said...

{Yawn}Bill, anytime you decide to stop defending purely partisan legislation that seeks to punish one man, one Democratic Attorney General, one singular person that serves in elected office here in Mississippi, out of some kind of misplaced allegiance to nothing more than the MS Republican Party, let me know, we can talk. In the meantime, I like to deal with reality, ya know, things like actually moving our state forward, things like addressing the state of Mississippi's current distinction as having America's 4th highest unemployment rate, things like addressing the property insurance rates of the 6 Coastal counties which are 500% higher now than 5 years ago, things like crumbling roads and bridges and school buildings, crappy libraries, no internet service for rural residents, high teen pregnancy rates, 1 out of 4 people that do not even graduate from high school, predatory pay-day lenders with 10,000,000% interest rates, extremely low state teacher pay, rapidly-rising college tuitions, etc. etc. etc. I talked to over 50 regular working Mississippian's today, and guess what Mr. Bill, not one of them said anything at all about Jim Hood in regards to hiring outside counsel, other than they were generally Republicans who voted for him last November!!!

bill said...

Look, I don't pretend to be an attorney, and I will yield to all of you who seem to know a lot more about this than I do. However, I have used attorneys before and they worked for an hourly rate. Jurisdeacon, read my post to Matt's blog entry today and you'll see my position. Matt, the money to pay for those cases will come from the same place that the money comes from to pay attorneys who work for the state and aren't being paid a contingency. Do those not exist? Bill

bill said...

Billy, we can talk about all those things whenever you want to. This thread is about the AG so that's what I addressed in my comments. I'm not for "punishing" Jim Hood. I'm for arms length transactions between the state and outside counsel, and I want to maximize the return for the state by hiring hard working hourly fee attorneys who will win the cases without needing to get rich off them. BB