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Despite GOP protests, expansion of state attorney general powers advances

Rachel Baye

Legislation expanding the state attorney general’s powers to sue the federal government advanced in the state Senate Thursday. But nine of the Senate’s 14 Republicans walked out before the vote to protest the Democratic majority rushing the measure through the body.

Critics of the measure, including at least one Democrat, say it’s unconstitutional.

Democratic Attorney General Brian Frosh has advocated for the change, which would allow him to bring lawsuits without first getting approval from either the governor or the General Assembly, as current law requires. During Thursday’s debate, his office confirmed that the change would be legal.

But Republicans said Frosh can’t be impartial in this matter.

Minority Leader J.B. Jennings, who represents Baltimore and Harford counties, asked to delay voting on the bill so Republicans could get their own legal analysis. When the Senate voted down the request, Jennings was among nine Republicans who left the room in protest.

“That was Washington, D.C. politics in there, not giving us the chance to review a bill of this magnitude for one day,” Jennings said.

Democrats say Frosh needs to be able to fight President Donald Trump’s policies on issues ranging from immigration to the environment.

The Senate is expected to hold a final vote on the measure tomorrow, before the House takes it up.

Rachel Baye is a senior reporter and editor in WYPR's newsroom. @RachelBaye
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