CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A bill that would rein in the authority of state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is moving in the House of Delegates with just more than two weeks left in the 2014 Regular Legislative Session.
The Attorney General Ethics and Accountability Act, HB 4490, was scheduled to be taken up on the House floor on second reading, meaning possible amendments, on Thursday and, if approved, could advance out of the House before the end of the week.
As proposed, that bill would establish new ethics rules for the attorney general, require the attorney general to turn over any money won through litigation to the state’s general revenue fund, and prohibit the attorney general from getting involved in lawsuits unless the governor, house speaker and senate president approve.
House Speaker Tim Miley (D-Harrison, 48) said the bill is about the operations of the Office of Attorney General in the long term.
“Going forward, there will be successors to Patrick Morrisey and they want to make sure that you don’t get a rogue attorney general in that office that goes off half-cocked on whatever political soapbox they want to pursue,” he said.
Morrisey said he does not understand why the House is targeting his office only and sent a letter to Miley on Tuesday raising questions about the constitutionality of the bill members of the House Judiciary Committee approved, earlier this week, with a vote along party lines.
There have been some claims House Democrats are targeting Morrisey, a Republican, for personal reasons.
“Ever since I’ve taken office, I’ve bent over backwards to reach out to people across the aisle to try to develop some consensus for the state of West Virginia,” Morrisey said on Wednesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.” He said those efforts have been successful with leaders in the executive branch and the state Senate, but have struggled in the House.
“We have a lot of problems facing our state. I think it’s important that we don’t engage in this partisanship we saw coming out of House Judiciary. We (need) to focus on the critical challenges facing West Virginia,” said Morrisey.
In 2002, the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of Morrisey’s predecessor, Darrell McGraw, a Democrat, when his authority challenged.
The Supreme Court said the following: “No statute, policy, rule or practice may constitutionally operate, alone or cumulatively, to limit, reduce, transfer, or reassign the duties and powers of the Office of Attorney General in such a fashion as to prevent that office from performing its inherent constitutional functions.”
The 2014 Regular Legislative Session ends on Saturday, March 8.