Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood

JACKSON – Legislation that Attorney General Jim Hood maintains could negatively impact his potentially $1 billion lawsuit against Entergy passed the House Wednesday by an 89-27 margin.

The bill will go back to the Senate where members can accept the bill as passed by the House and send it to the governor or invite negotiations.

Democrats tried unsuccessfully to remove language from the bill that Hood has said could negatively impact his lawsuit to recoup for ratepayers funds he says they have been overcharged.

As the House passed the bill Wednesday, there were numerous Entergy employees and representatives in the Capitol.

The bill, which passed the Senate earlier, would require for the three member elected Public Service Commission to sign off on lawsuits filed by the attorney general against public utilities.

The lawsuit against Entergy alleges that the company overcharged its customers for electricity by using power from its generators instead of acquiring electricity from the cheapest source as it is mandated by laws and regulations.

The lawsuit, Hood has said, could result in a rebate to ratepayers.

At the very least, Hood said the bill, if enacted into law, could delay the start of the trial, which is slated to begin Nov. 8 after nine years of litigation.

Hood also said the bill, if law, could provide Entergy with other options to attempt to block a judicial remedy.

The original intent of the bill was to pass routine legislation to re-authorize the Public Service Commission. But the language was added in the Senate to require the PSC to sign off on lawsuits against public utilities.

Rep. John Hines, D-Greenville, offered an amendment on the House floor to remove the language requiring the PSC to approve the lawsuits.

“Traditionally, we have never gotten involved in anything that is in court,” Hines said.

House Public Utility Chairman Jim Beckett, R-Bruce, said that the Legislature has passed bills in the past that impacted lawsuits.

He said that Hood still could pursue the lawsuit, but that he would have to obtain PSC approval.

Nearly all members of the Republican majority voted against Hines’ amendment. Hood is Mississippi’s only statewide elected Democrat.

Another bill Hood said could impact his ability to pursue lawsuits died Tuesday when it was not taken up on a deadline day in committee.

That bill would strip away the authority of the attorney general to file lawsuits under the state’s Consumer Protection Law. The intent of the bill is to limit the authority of the AG to file lawsuits against companies that are regulated by other entities.

By Bobby Harrison / Daily Journal