CHARLESTON – The House of Delegates on April 18 passed Senate Bill 1005, which would establish a new precedent for how settlement funds recovered in lawsuits are handled.
State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is a supporter of the bill, which is awaiting signature into law by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. Morrisey said the bill’s passage was the result of many weeks’ worth of cooperation between his office, Tomblin’s office and lawmakers.
“The passage of Senate Bill 1005 marks an important step for our state and the Attorney General’s Office,” Morrisey said.
“I campaigned on a platform of returning lawsuit settlement monies back to the Legislature and the taxpayers, and the promises made many months ago have been kept. This bill and its approval by members of the Legislature show this is a new day in the Attorney General’s Office.”
The bill would send $7,459,000 from Morrisey’s Consumer Protection Recovery Fund to the state’s General Revenue Fund. Of that money, $3.5 million would be directed to the Department of Health and Human Resources’ Consolidated Medical Service Fund for behavior health problems.
After $1.6 million is sent to the Higher Education Policy Commission and $500,000 is sent to the Department of Commerce, the remaining $1,859,000 will be reapportioned to the Attorney General’s Office for personnel, technology improvements and operating expenses.
During 2012’s campaign, Morrisey attacked longtime Attorney General Darrell McGraw’s handling of settlement funds.
The federal government twice decided that McGraw was wrong to keep funds recovered in lawsuits in which he represented state agencies. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services ordered funds that would normally be appropriated to the state withheld to cover the amount it says it was owed from settlements with Purdue Pharma and Dey LP.
Morrisey also claimed McGraw used funds from the Consumer Protection Division to promote his name for the purpose of being re-elected.
The bill will provide three years of operating monies to fund the Consumer Protection Division and pursue cases, and any monies brought into the office above the three-year allowance will be sent to the General Fund.
“When I ran for this office, I said I did not want to act as a ‘Super Legislature’ by allocating state settlement money as I saw fit,” Morrisey said.
“I said I wanted to seek Legislative appropriations for our accounts and return monies to consumers and taxpayers instead of using the office to dole monies out for pet projects. Through this agreement, I am living up to that promise and changing the way Charleston operates.”
The bill was introduced and passed in the Senate on April 17. Its lead sponsor was Senate President Jeff Kessler.
From the West Virginia Record: Reach John O’Brien at email@example.com.