CHARLESTON - A supplemental appropriation bill approved Thursday by the West Virginia Legislature is a landmark change on how the West Virginia attorney general will do business, the attorney general said.
The legislation established a precedent for how lawsuit settlement monies are managed and returns millions of dollars to the General Revenue Fund, Attorney General Pat Morrisey said.
Morrisey in the campaign against incumbent Democrat Darrell McGraw chided the former attorney general for refusing to turn over millions of dollars from settlements to the general fund.
"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 shows this is a new day in the Attorney General's office."
SB 1005 was approved by the Senate on Wednesday and the House of Delegates on Thursday. He credited the governor and the House and Senate leadership.
It will result in $7.459 million of unencumbered funds in the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Recovery Fund going into the General Revenue Fund, Morrisey said. It then directs $3.5 million of that to the Department of Health and Human Resources' Consolidated Medical Service Fund for behavioral health programs, $1.6 million to the Higher Education Policy Commission and $500,000 to the Department of Commerce.
The remaining $1.859 million will be reappropriated to the Attorney General's office for personnel, technology improvements and operating expenses, Morrisey said.
With the agreement, a new policy for dealing with settlement monies was established, Morrisey said.
The Attorney General's office will have three years of operating monies to fund the Consumer Protection Division and pursue cases. Any monies that are brought into the office above the three-year operating allowance and not otherwise dedicated specifically for restitution for consumers that previously would have been spent at the discretion of the attorney general will be made available for the General Fund, Morrisey said.
"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."