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Sunshine Legislation A Long Time Coming

January 18, 2012

In trying to squeeze every ounce out of Haley Barbour’s pardons for their political benefit, the Mississippi Democrats recently sent out a press release labeling legislation that would put limits on the attorney general when it comes out hiring outside counsel as retaliation against “the only statewide official who has taken action to protect Mississippians from Republican recklessness,” talking particularly about the pardons.

As I said, Democrats are trying to get everything out of this and that is understandable. Why else would a Public Service Commissioner, tasked with regulating utilities and telemarketers, be devoting so much time and energy to the subject? When the issue first came up, I didn’t instantly go to Lynn Posey for his opinion, but Brandon Presley has taken it upon himself to be seen and heard. But unfortunately for Democrats, Phil Bryant- who was dealt with this hand on his first day in office- has handled the issue smoothly and legislation will pass some time during this session limiting the governor’s ability to pardon, and my guess says it has 174 yes votes with it.

As Sid Salter talked about in his column today, this isn’t a new issue. This practice of awarding hiring outside counsel who then make substantial donations to your campaign is nothing new, and it certainly didn’t start with Jim Hood. Some could say that former Attorney General Mike Moore was the architect behind such a practice, and it certainly began to take off throughout the country in the 1990s.

And what is going on with legislation in Mississippi isn’t anything much different than legislation being proposed in various state capitol’s. What has been introduced in Mississippi is based roughly on what is known as the Private Attorney Retention Sunshine Act. Here is a review of legislation that has been introduced and passed throughout the nation, courtesy of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a business group Mississippi Democrats target in their release. And they wonder what they get such low grades from organizations like BIPEC.

Sen. Joey Fillingane is again the author of the legislation (details on the bill here), as he has been for years. A bill known as SB 2188 cleared the Senate in 2008 by a 29-18 margin. Sen. David Blount is the remaining Democrat in the chamber who backed the legislation at that time. Former Sen. Tommy Dickerson also supported it, as did former Sens. Cindy Hyde-Smith and Nolan Mettetal who were elected in 2007 as a Democrats. Mettetal may have switched parties by this time; we known Hyde-Smith wouldn’t switch until last year.

Democrats who have a conservative image such as Sens. Haskins Montgomery, Nickey Browning and J.P. Wilemon opposed it, as did then-Democrat Gray Tollison. While his vote won’t derail this bill by any means, will be interesting to see what he has to say now that he is a Republican.

But the difference with the legislation this year, and why Democrats and their outside groups are making such a big deal about it, is obviously because of the House- and who is now controlling things. As Rep. Bob Evans reflects in the party’s release, “We were able to kill these efforts in the House during the last term.” Not anymore.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. Paladin permalink
    January 19, 2012 1:24 am

    maybe a little off topic, but what will the bond vote be on the civil rights museums funding?
    Treasurer- ??
    LT GV- Yea?
    Gov- Yea or Nay

    • Travis Rose permalink
      January 19, 2012 1:45 pm

      I didn’t know the Lt. was on the Bond Commission. I would image the AG is for it. Will anyone go with him? I doubt it. Bryant and Fitch ran as fiscal conservatives.

  2. Ron Williams permalink
    January 19, 2012 1:47 pm

    Brett,

    Does this legislation apply only to the AG, or is it for all Agencies. I ask that because as you know, I am opposed to the rewarding of campaign contributors, with No-bid, non necesary contracts.

    I hope this legtislature is all encompassing and not Just ” cat vs mouse”or should I say “elephant vs donkey”.

    If it is a true measure to stop the contracting corruption, I applaud those behind the effort and wish you the best.

  3. Ron Williams permalink
    January 19, 2012 2:29 pm

    Brett,

    Never mind. I should have known better. It’s a Cat vs Mouse Bill. If you read it, you soon figure outthat it is an effort not to Stop the practice of corrupt contracting, but wants to give more of that ability to the new Rep Agency appointees. Politics as usual in Mississippi.

  4. rankinlawyer permalink
    January 19, 2012 4:17 pm

    Something obviously needs to be done about the outside counsel being given sweetheart deals from the AG’s office. Something also needs to be done about the sweetheart deals the Treasurer is able to give. The Treasurer should not be able to enrich political supporters any more than the AG should be able to do so.

    • Ron , to rankin, Williams permalink
      January 19, 2012 5:39 pm

      rankin,

      something needs to be done about all corruptive contracting. The republican party is not capable of making those changes.;

      • Coast Rat 4ever permalink
        January 20, 2012 11:08 am

        When are you going to officially announce your candidacy for Congress, Ron? Gonna be interesting to see how you deal with usage of prescription medications to treat mental disorders…

  5. Ron , to rankin, Williams permalink
    January 20, 2012 3:11 pm

    Let me answer this once and for all.; I have never been diagnosed with or treated for any Mental disorder.

  6. Dontreadonme permalink
    February 13, 2012 10:28 pm

    Maybe the state should stop hiring attorneys to do the job the AG is supposed to be doing. That way the AG can earn his keep and be held accountable for his own attorney skills. (which is none)…….

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