A House committee met on Monday afternoon to take up House Bill 211, formerly known as 122, which would give state agency and department heads the power to hire outside council to represent them in court when they feel the Attorney General would not be the best counsel.
The bill passed by a 14 to 9 vote. Jim Hood, the lone democrat in statewide office, says the bill is unconstitutional since it takes away the state's ability to speak with one voice in court and will end up costing the state more money to hire private attorneys. Meanwhile, republican agency heads say the bill is more than fair and will not cost anything.
"This in my opinion gives the autonomy to the agency heads to the individuals, but still maintains sunshine," State Auditor Stacey Pickering. "It still maintains accountability. As far as costing the taxpayers any additional money, it's not going to cost them more because you still have to operate within the parameters of your authorized budget as set forth by the legislature."
"It's about partisanship," Attorney General Jim Hood says. "It's about whether or not the republican lawyers are being hired. Our agency lawyers are not republican or democrat. So, it's not a partisan issue for our office out there but obviously for many of the members of the legislature over here. You know, they're feeling their new found power and they're going to use it."
The bill will now make its way to the House floor, which is where it got sent back to the committee last week.