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Morrisey blasts state lawmakers over plan to sweep settlement funds


Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey sharply criticized state lawmakers Tuesday night, alleging they want to gut his consumer protection fund and stymie his efforts to curb substance abuse.

The House of Delegates plans to take a final vote today on legislation (HB3062) that aims to rein in Morrisey’s use of lawsuit settlement funds and ensure the Legislature gets to spend that money as it sees fit. The bill allows the Legislature to sweep extra settlement funds every three months whenever Morrisey’s consumer protection fund exceeds $4 million.

Last week, the House Finance Committee raised that cap to $6 million, but the full House amended the bill Tuesday, restoring the $4 million limit.

And that didn’t sit well with Morrisey.

W. Va. Attorney General
Patrick Morrisey

“We oppose any efforts to gut our consumer protection fund, which includes the state’s substance abuse fighting unit,” Morrisey said in a press release Tuesday night.”

Earlier on the House floor, Delegate John Shott, R-Mercer, said Morrisey’s office typically spends about $3 million a year on consumer protection. The $4 million cap would provide a “cushion” of funds for the office, Shott said.

State lawmakers also could allocate additional funds to the office as needed at Morrisey’s request, Shott noted.

But that promise didn’t satisfy Morrisey.

“I urge the Legislature to reverse course,” he said. “This legislation would benefit tremendously from further consideration to prevent any unintended and negative consequences.”

Morrisey now has an estimated $12 million in his consumer protection account — $8 million of which came from a recent settlement with prescription drug distributors. Former Attorney General Darrell McGraw filed the lawsuit in 2012. State lawmakers want the final say on how the settlement funds are spent.

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