CHARLESTON – A House of Delegates bill that would limit how the attorney general’s office uses lawsuit settlement funds was voted on and passed 90-7 on Feb. 13.
The bill would require funds won in cases by the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office to be deposited to the state’s General Revenue Fund. It would limit Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s ability to spend or stockpile money paid by companies to the state to settle lawsuits.
Legislators want to ensure they have the final way on how the settlement funds are spent.
The bill also would allow the Legislature to seize settlement funds from the attorney general’s consumer protection account when its balance exceeds $5 million.
House leaders said Morrisey currently has $11 million in the account.
The bill will now go to the Senate. Last year, a similar bill passed the House 95-5, but stalled in the Senate Finance Committee.
Morrisey opposes the bill.
“This continues to be a flawed bill, however we’re confident the Senate doesn’t have the same interests as some in the House,” said Press Secretary Curtis Johnson. “We believe this won’t be a concern once lawmakers are better informed as nobody wants the Attorney General to be limited in his ability to enforce consumer protection laws and fight the state’s drug epidemic.”
Johnson said such efforts demand reliable funding – not broad sweeps of a self-paying fund.
“The Attorney General already returned more than $39 million to the Legislature through efficient management of our settlement funds and will continue to do so in keeping with his promises,” Johnson said.
The seven delegates that voted against the bill were Jim Butler, Eric Householder, Pat McGeehan, Tony Paynter, Jill Upson, Guy Ward and Marshall Wilson.