Monday, March 2, 2015

Rutledge to abide by 2013 limit on use of $21.5 million lawsuit win; so where will windfall go?

Posted By on Mon, Mar 2, 2015 at 11:25 AM

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge took office just in time to be in charge when the state of Arkansas completed a long-running piece of litigation against Standard and Poor's over inflated financial ratings, a case that produced a $21.5 million windfall for Arkansas in a multistate class action lawsuit.

When the outcome was announced, the office said the winnings would go to the Consumer Protection and Education Fund. But I was reminded recently that the 2013 legislature moved to rein in Attorney General Dustin McDaniel's free-spending ways with that slush fund. It limited the fund balance to $1 million and limited its use to litigation support, expert witness fees, court filing fees, process server fees, witness fees, court costs, court reporter fees, attorney and staff training, travel expenses, consumer education and office expenses and improvements.

The S&P money is to be paid within 30 days of receiving "written processing instructions" from the state of Arkansas. It also says it is to be paid to the Attorney General's Consumer Education and Enforcement Account to be used "in accordance" with Act 763 of 2013.

I asked the attorney general's office about plans for the money, in that it exceeded by more than $20 million the amount available to the office to spend in the consumer account. This was the response from spokesman Judd Deere:

Attorney General Rutledge will follow the law and guidelines set forth in Act 763 of 2013. Although the State has not received the funds yet, the Attorney General has been consulting with the Governor as well as the Leaders of the House and Senate regarding the settlement dollars. 

$20 million, though one-time money, could come in handy in any number of areas of Gov. Asa Hutchinson's budget. Where? I'm trying to find out.

The settlement was entered Feb. 5. The money is expected March 9.

Here's an idea: How about pre-K?

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