JACKSON – The Mississippi Senate today approved legislation to reduce the number of state-owned vehicles and shed light on the hiring of private attorneys for contract work, two priority initiatives for Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves.
“These bills aim to make state government more transparent and ensure tax dollars are spent efficiently,” Lt. Gov. Reeves said of Senate Bills 2917 and 2084. “Wasteful government spending drags down our economy.”
During his campaign for Lieutenant Governor, Reeves spoke of the need to reduce the number of vehicles owned by the state. Creating a transparent legal contracting process was part of his 2012 legislative agenda.
Senate Bill 2917 places a one-year moratorium on state vehicle purchases, which will result in $12 million in savings to taxpayers. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Nancy Collins, also requires the state to reduce the size of its fleet by 2 percent annually over a three-year period.
“We need to take a hard look at how the state is spending taxpayers’ money and find ways to save even more,” Lt. Gov. Reeves said.
Senate Bill 2084, the Sunshine Attorney Act, requires the Attorney General to award contracts to private attorneys for specialized cases through a transparent process. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Joey Fillingane, also allows agency directors to hire private counsel when needed. An independent council will approve or deny the request for private attorneys. The measure also requires the Attorney General to give notice to an agency before pursuing legal action on behalf of the agency.
“This bill simply shines a light on how legal contracts are awarded in Mississippi,” Lt. Gov. Reeves said. “Taxpayers deserve to know who is benefitting financially from legal action on behalf of the state. Agencies should have the ability to hire and pay legal counsel without first getting approval from the Attorney General, which can often be a long and arduous process.”
Currently, agencies are limited to representation by an attorney assigned by the Office of the Attorney General, which can create conflicts when the attorney general refuses to handle a case on behalf of the agency or takes a legal stance opposite the agency’s interest.
While serving as State Treasurer, Reeves said the Office of the Attorney General was a roadblock to join the successful effort to direct a legal settlement from the nonprofit Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi to Mississippi taxpayers via the Health Care Trust Fund. The Office of the Attorney General refused to represent taxpayers’ interest in the case and delayed Reeves’ efforts to hire outside counsel to pursue the case. The dispute caused needless delay in a legal case that was ultimately settled in favor of Mississippi taxpayers, resulting in payments of $20 million annually to state.