In response to Attorney General Jim Hood’s efforts to stop former Gov. Haley Barbour’s release of over 200 Mississippi felons, including murderers, rapists and child sex offenders, a Republican senator has introduced a barrage of retaliatory legislation.

On Friday, two days after Hinds County Circuit Judge Tomie Green temporarily blocked the pardons of 21 current and former inmates at the request of Hood, Senator Joey Fillingane (R-Sumrall) introduced Senate Bills 2084 and 2102, bills aimed at limiting the powers of the Attorney General to hire outside legal counsel to prosecute complex claims on behalf of the State.

“This retaliatory stunt couldn’t come at a worse time,” said Rep. Bob Evans (D-Monticello). “At this moment, General Hood is working to recover tens of millions owed to the state’s retirement system, now is not the time to tie his hands.”

Democrats say S. B. 2084 and 2102 are aimed at keeping the Attorney General’s Office from recovering taxpayer money for egregious acts against the State. During his most recent term of office, Hood recovered over $500 million on behalf of Mississippi taxpayers in civil litigation that didn’t cost taxpayers a dime.

At issue is the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office’s ability to contract with outside counsel to represent the state for costly recovery actions. The practice has been the target of United States Chamber of Commerce funded entities such as the American Legislative Exchange Council for almost a decade. Fillingane, like a number of his Republican colleagues, is a member of ALEC.

“We were able to kill these efforts in the House during the last term,” Evans said. “But the Republicans are determined to make sure Jim Hood is blocked from making their big business cronies pay when they do bad things to the State of Mississippi.”

Ironically, Fillingane, as former Chair of the Senate Judiciary A Committee, killed at least three bills that would have provided “sunshine” on the Mississippi pardon system now under scrutiny by news outlets nation-wide.

Evans said, “This is simple retaliation against the only statewide official who has taken action to protect Mississippians from Republican recklessness.” Evans added, “Senator Fillingane failed Mississippi victims and families when he killed these bills before. We can’t afford to let him compound the problem by grounding our chief law enforcement officer.”

MS House Dems
1/16/12