House to debate limiting attorney general's power

By The Associated Press

JACKSON — Attorney General Jim Hood may be busy Thursday while House members debate a bill to limit his powers.

The House bumped up its meeting time from the usual 2 p.m. to 10 a.m., when Hood is likely to be arguing against former Gov. Haley Barbour’s pardons at the state Supreme Court. The House doesn’t plan to meet Friday, so the morning start could allow lawmakers to go home for the weekend earlier on Thursday, but Hood said the move is part of a campaign against him.

The bill would allow statewide elected officials and agency heads to hire attorneys with state money whenever they find Hood’s office has a conflict or can’t effectively represent them. It would mandate all contracts with outside lawyers worth $100,000 or more be posted.

Hood, the only elected statewide Democrat, says the bill is unconstitutional and driven by Republican partisanship.

House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, the bill’s primary sponsor, said Wednesday that the measure is needed, and is not a punitive measure. “I do know the proposals presented by a number of people were much more severe than this,” Gunn said.

Hood had asked House Judiciary A Committee Chairman Mark Baker, R-Brandon, for a chance to speak against the bill before a House committee Tuesday, but Baker turned down Hood’s request for a formal public hearing.

Hood said the earlier meeting time shows part of a continued effort to cut him out of debate.

“Now they do not want me to even be at the Capitol during the floor debate,” he said in a statement. “It is clear that Chairman Baker and Speaker Gunn are afraid some of the new House members would not vote for the bill, if I got a chance to address them. They are afraid of having to debate me.”