Recent News

Wall Street Journal: Maryland Lawmakers Expand Attorney General’s Powers, Cite Trump Concerns

02.16.2017

Associated Press  

ANNAPOLIS, Md.—The Maryland General Assembly empowered the state’s Democratic attorney general to sue the federal government without gaining permission from the state’s Republican governor.

The House of Delegates voted 89-50 on Wednesday along party lines for a joint resolution already approved by the Senate.

After President Donald Trump instituted a ban in late January on travelers from seven countries deemed to be terrorism risks, Attorney General Brian Frosh sought to file a lawsuit. He asked the governor for permission on Feb. 1, but his office said he never received a final response.

Amelia Chasse, a spokeswoman for Gov. Larry Hogan, said the governor’s lawyers had follow-up questions about filing the lawsuit. At the time, Minnesota and Washington state had already filed a suit against Mr. Trump’s executive order.

Ms. Chasse said the attorney general then filed an amicus brief supporting the other two states’ lawsuit without telling the governor’s office.

Maryland’s highest court has ruled that, unlike more than 40 other attorneys general in the country, the state’s attorney general lacks the common-law authority to sue the federal government without permission from either the General Assembly or the governor.

The joint resolution passed Wednesday, which cannot be vetoed by the governor, would enable the attorney general to sue to protect the health, public safety, civil liberties and economic security of Maryland residents, as well as the environment.

Democrats, who control Maryland’s legislature, pointed to concerns about how the Trump administration’s future actions could affect the state as a reason for expanding the attorney general’s powers. They cited the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act and possible lax enforcement of federal regulations to protect the Chesapeake Bay, the nation’s largest estuary.

“There is nothing unprecedented about this resolution,” said Delegate Kirill Reznik (D., Montgomery). “It simply gives the attorney general the same powers to be able to sue the federal government as 41 other attorneys general. That’s it.”

But Republicans said Democrats were injecting the partisan politics of Washington into Maryland in an effort to bypass the governor and disrupt checks and balances.

“No one wants the federal government steamrolling Marylanders, steamrolling the Chesapeake Bay,” said Delegate Nic Kipke (R., Anne Arundel), who is the House minority leader. “Our governor would be first in line to defend the interests of Marylanders, I believe.”

The Senate approved the resolution 29-17 last week, with all of the chamber’s 14 Republicans opposing it. Nine Senate Republicans walked out of the chamber in protest during a debate, because a request to delay action on the fast-tracked resolution for a day was rejected.