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[Archived] Legislation on Attorney General Edmondson Blocked

| News | January 04, 2017

The bill's Senate author says he didn't have the votes.

OKLAHOMA CITY -- A House bill that would restrict the attorney general's ability to file lawsuits without approval from the governor or Legislature, unless authorized by statute, was withdrawn Tuesday by its Senate author.

House Bill 1879, by Rep. Fred Morgan, R-Oklahoma City, is written in the Senate by Sen. Frank Shurden, D-Henryetta.

Sen. Scott Pruitt, R-Broken Arrow, offered an amendment that would make the bill apply only to the attorney general's decisions to employ outside counsel in a case.

Pruitt told the Senate Judiciary Committee that his language would not limit the attorney general's ability to bring lawsuits.

However, the amendment failed.

Shurden then withdrew the bill from consideration.

"There was only one hope, and that is if that amendment had been adopted," Shurden said later. "I didn't think we had any support after that amendment went down."

Shurden said he thought the amendment might have made the bill more palatable to those who would otherwise oppose the bill.

Morgan said he was disappointed at what happened.

"It appears

to me that that is good fiscal policy," Morgan said of the amendment.

Morgan said the bill is still alive and may be resurrected and revised next year.

"I was aware that if the amendment did not pass, he might withdraw it," Morgan said.

Before Shurden pulled the bill, Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson told the panel it would inject politics into what should be legal decisions.

He said approval of HB 1879 would make Oklahoma the only state in the nation to place such restrictions on its elected attorney general.

"I think that it's bad government and I ask that you turn it down," he said.

Edmondson has said previously that he believes the bill is aimed at blocking him from pursuing litigation against several poultry companies for polluting Oklahoma lakes and streams.

"I am hopeful that, with this distraction behind us, the companies will see the benefit of returning to the negotiating table," he said.