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Governors Vs. Attorneys General

March 29, 2010
tags: Attorney General, Governor
by Brett

Over the past week we have seen a familiar trend develop in Mississippi. That trend is Haley Barbour, the Republican Governor, and Jim Hood, the Democratic Attorney General, not agreeing on something- in this case joining a lawsuit against the new healthcare legislation on behalf of the state.

We have seen similar fights over the years on issues such as the governor’s ability to issue a partial veto, the date of the special election to fill Trent Lott’s old seat, the placement on the ballot of that special election, and funding of Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi (to name a few biggies).

We see these fights because like most states the AG is elected independently from the governor, meaning you have the chance as we have right now where two executive level positions come from different parties, and most likely are going to have a difference of opinion.

This is playing out in the healthcare lawsuits in many states. The AG in Georgia, like Mississippi, is a Democrat who seemingly wants no part of the Republican governor’s request to bring a lawsuit (to be fair to Hood he hasn’t said he won’t, just that he needs more time to form a decision).

On the flip side, there are a couple states where you have a Democratic governor objecting to the what a Republican AG is doing. This includes Washington and Pennsylvania. In these cases, the Republican AG is supporting to the lawsuit against the objection of the Democratic governor.

This brings up an interesting question on if AGs should just be able to ignore the governor? In DC as we know, the AG works at the pleasure of the president. It is his or her job to defend the administration. The same is true for all cabinet level positions- elected independently in most states, they work for the president’s administration.

I write this knowing two things: 1) The AG in Mississippi is never going to become an appointed position (I do not see any of the elected statewide offices going the appointment route ever). 2) Democrats are going to say I/ or Republicans who agree with this are just being partisan and want to get rid of Hood. As I said, this works both ways.

The question is, is it helpful or productive having an AG (or Secretary of State, Lt. Governor, Auditor, etc.) who are not accountable to the chief executive in the state- the governor?

One Comment leave one →
  1. Raiseya permalink
    March 31, 2010 5:09 am

    The governor’s office in MS is a relatively weak position, for the reasons you point out. This is preferable to the immense strength that Obama is amassing in DC. Other Presidents have persued the same path, with less spectacular results.

    Accumulation of power is a danger to us all. Even if you trust Barbour, what about his successor? Therein lies the rub.

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