The proposed legislation -- called the "Attorney General Ethics and Accountability Act" -- also strips the office of control over funds secured through lawsuit settlements and awards, allowing the Legislature to distribute the money.
Under the bill, Morrisey also would no longer be able to file "friend of the court" legal briefs in cases without approval from the House speaker, Senate president and governor. Morrisey has filed numerous such briefs since taking office in January 2013.
The legislation also sets specific rules for hiring outside lawyers. The attorney general's office must submit a written statement that explains why the office's in-house lawyers couldn't handle the case.
No representatives of Morrisey's office attended Monday's committee meeting.
"I am very disappointed that he declined to even attend the committee meeting after he was invited," said Delegate Stephen Skinner, D-Jefferson. "I don't know whether he is concerned about answering potential questions about his own conflict or about his failure to turn over lawsuit proceeds as he promised previously."
House Republicans railed against the bill Monday, saying the West Virginia Bar's "Rules of Professional Conduct" already spell out ethics rules for the attorney general and other lawyers in the state. The bill's critics said companies could donate $5 to an attorney general's campaign, forcing the elected official to step aside from a case.
"Liberal Democrats in our Legislature are more concerned with harming the Office of Attorney General than making sure our citizens and government are defended from threats inside and outside this state," said state Republican Party Chairman Conrad Lucas after Monday night's committee vote. "House Bill 4490 is simply an undisguised attempt to take away the rights that that the attorney general of West Virginia has held for 150 years. It's sad."
Last July, Morrisey announced he had stepped aside from his office's lawsuit against Cardinal Health, after the Gazette revealed the pain-pill distributor contributed $2,500 to Morrisey's inauguration fund. The company also has paid $3.7 million to lobbying firms that Henry has worked for or owned since 2001.
Meanwhile, Cardinal Health executives donated $4,000 to Morrisey's campaign in 2012, $3,000 of which came after McGraw's office filed suit against the company. A Cardinal Health vice president also contributed $1,000 to Morrisey's campaign in December 2012, a month after Morrisey defeated McGraw.
Morrisey is holding post-election fundraisers to help retire his campaign debt.
The Cardinal Health lawsuit alleges that the drug company helped fuel Southern West Virginia's problem with prescription drug abuse by shipping excessive numbers of pain pills to the region.
Reach Eric Eyre at erice...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4869.