Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Charlie Mitchell: Attorney General "Sunshine" Law not what it's advertised to be

In an opinion piece on today's Daily Journal website, Charlie Mitchell outlines the losses the state will likely see going forward as a result of the so-called "Sunshine" Act that was the darling of corporate defense lawyer Philip Gunn (R - Clinton).  Gunn, of course, was elected Speaker of the House following the Republican takeover in January.

Some excerpts:

It's not about allowing citizens to learn more about what public officials are doing. 
It's about trying to curb the enthusiasm of Attorney General Jim Hood in signing contracts with private attorneys to file suits on Mississippi's behalf. 
It comes with a cost because, like them or not, these cases have been part of the state's revenue picture for almost 20 years.

Nobody likes trial lawyers, right? Ambulance chasers. That's what they are. So flushing them out into the open is a good thing, right?
Well, except for the fact that their efforts have ginned up hundreds of millions of dollars for the public treasury in this, the poorest state in the union.

But aside from the stench is that Big Tobacco (through its customers) is paying the state Big Money to offset Medicaid and other state expenses in treating people with tobacco-related illnesses. 
The 2011 payment was $113 million. Compare that to state revenue from casinos, which was $150 million during the same period. It's not a pittance. Over 25 years, payments are expected to total $3.6 billion.
There was also the MCIWorldCom settlement that provided the state treasury with $100,000,000.00 and a new building to house the Department of Environmental Quality.  There have been others as well.  I hope we won't need money like that going forward, because under "Sunshine", we ain't going to get it.

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