Senate panel votes to let legislators issue lawsuit orders to state attorney general

A Republican-sponsored bill declaring the Legislature can order the state attorney general to either file a lawsuit or dismiss one initiated on his own was approved on a 5-3 vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

“The attorney general is the state’s chief litigator, and he should be responsive to the people of Tennessee and their concerns,” said Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, in a press release hailing the 5-3 committee vote in favor of SB2085. “This bill makes the office of attorney general more accountable to the people.”

State Attorney General Bob Cooper declined two years ago to file a lawsuit challenging the federal Affordable Care Act despite being urged to do so by Republican lawmakers. Attorneys general in other states joined in such a lawsuit, which led to the U.S. Supreme Court upholding most of the federal law, but striking down a provision that said states must accept Medicaid expansion envisioned in the law as enacted.

Critics said the measure amounts to unwarranted legislative interference in the judicial branch of government and could mean substituting legislators’ political judgment for the attorney general’s professional legal judgment.