Morrisey reacts to AG Ethics and Accountability Act - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey reacts to Attorney General Ethics and Accountability Act

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Attorney General Patrick Morrisey says legislation that would dramatically redefine the powers and authority of his office is "blatantly partisan and overbroad" and, if need be, he would challenge its constitutionality in court.

House Bill 4490, known as the Attorney General Ethics and Accountability Act, would prohibit the attorney general from participating in lawsuits involving individuals or companies that contribute to his campaign.

It also would require the attorney general to have permission from the speaker of the house, the president of the senate or the governor – positions currently held by Democrats – before filing or joining amicus briefs involving litigation in which the state has an interest even though it isn't a party to the actual suit.

Morrisey, a Republican, has filed amicus briefs in a number of cases since taking office involving what he perceives as Obama administration overreach.

A vote could come as early as Friday, Feb. 21.

"It really is a bill that would bring the state into constitutional crisis," Morrisey said Wednesday. "We're working to educate members across the political spectrum, and we're going to keep fighting. Hopefully, on a bill like this, members will vote their conscience and do the right thing as opposed to making it a party line vote, like they did in the House judiciary committee."

Morrisey characterizes HB 4490 as "a highly partisan bill with very little merit" that would stymie his office's efforts to protect Second Amendment rights, fight for coal jobs and challenge the administration's overreach.

In a letter to House Speaker Timothy Miley, he said that under the proposal, "every Board of Public Works official except the Attorney General will be allowed to decide whether they wish to file amicus briefs, even though the West Virginia Constitution allows the Attorney General to speak for the legal interests of the State and recognizes the office as an equal member of the Executive Branch."

"It would undermine my office's ability to challenge President Obama's agenda," he said. "We've been very aggressive in taking on federal overreach, and this bill is a blatant attempt by the House of Delegates to restrain that. It would also gut our consumer division, its funding would be reduced."

He said the proposed ban on cases involving campaign contributors is "breathtakingly hypocritical," given that lawmakers themselves routinely vote on issues involving groups and individuals who helped elect them.

"At a time when we have serious challenges protecting the integrity of our water supply and advancing our state economically, the House of Delegates is focused on partisan causes," Morrisey said. "They're doing it because they're concerned they are about to lose control of the House."

He said the bill also puts ongoing criminal and civil investigations targeting corruption and violations of the state's consumer protection laws at risk, "(and) could cost the state many millions of dollars in lost settlements and allow certain individuals to avoid justice." It also would "dramatically reduce" funding to his office's Consumer Protection Division, gutting its ability to protect West Virginians and potentially costing dozens of employees their jobs, he said.

"This is an unprecedented, unconstitutional, and dangerous experiment to advance a very partisan cause," he said, adding that, if it passes, he will challenge its constitutionality.

"Under case law I feel we would have very strong arguments to toss most of these provisions, but I would prefer not to have to spend precious taxpayer dollars to challenge such frivolous legislation," he said. "I believe we have very strong arguments and will make our best case before the courts."