West Virginia Record

Sunday, December 15, 2019

AG's office not happy about House bill governing settlement funds

By Chris Dickerson | Jan 19, 2018

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey

CHARLESTON – A bill that would require settlement monies won by the state Attorney General’s office to be put into the state’s General Revenue Fund is moving through the House of Delegates.

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s office has issues with the measure, which is known as the State Settlement and Recovered Funds Accountability Act.

“We are deeply concerned that the way the bill is drafted is unconstitutional and would severely limit the Attorney General’s authority to protect the public,” said Chief Deputy Attorney General Anthony Martin. “For instance, under this legislation, as drafted, we would have likely been unable to secure a $160 million settlement from Frontier and require them to establish higher speed Internet that meet promises to consumers.”

Martin said House Bill 4009 also could “very negatively impact” state agencies to file suits to recover damages when they are harmed “since those agencies wouldn’t receive any monies from their efforts.”

“The Legislature should control the power of the purse, but such power can not be exercised in a manner that impedes the Attorney General’s or the Executive Branch’s constitutional functions,” Martin said. “We are hopeful that the House will alter its approach as Delegates learn about the legal and policy flaws of this bill.”

The House Judiciary Committee passed the bill Jan. 15 and sent it to the House Finance Committee. The House overwhelmingly passed the bill last year, but it died in the Senate Finance Committee at the end of the session.

Last year, Morrisey’s office announced it was transferring $1 million to the State Police to help clear the case backlog in its crime lab. Some people questioned if the AG’s office could do that.

The bill would require recovered funds and assets to be deposited into the state’s General Revenue Fund or held in a trust. It also would forbid settlement or agreement terms that are contradictory.

In addition, it would require a quarterly transfer of funds from the Consumer Protection Recovery Fund into the General Revenue Fund as well as a quarterly reporting from the AG’s office about the status of the funds to be turned over.

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Virginia Attorney General's OfficeWest Virginia House of Delegates