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Republican Leaders Want To Compel AG To Share His Legal Opinions, With Or Without Governor's Consent

Julia Ritchey
Speaker Greg Hughes addresses the Utah House on Jan. 22.

Utah House Republican leaders are asserting their powers amid an ongoing dispute with the executive branch over last year's special congressional election.

Lawmakers are pushing a new bill (H.B. 198) that will compel the attorney general to provide his legal opinion to them, even over the objection of the governor.

The proposal is aimed squarely at Gov. Gary Herbert, who blocked his Attorney General Sean Reyes from giving lawmakers an opinion last year on whether Herbert was within his authority to arrange the rules for the 3rd Congressional District's special election. Herbert claimed doing so would violate attorney-client privilege.

Lawmakers wanted Herbert to call them into a special session to make the rules for the election after former Congressman Jason Chaffetz announced he was resigning early.

In an interview last month, House Speaker Greg Hughes said spelling out separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches was a top priority for him this year.

"Remember, that short session, we don't want anyone to think we're a part-time branch," he said. "We're a full-time branch, we just have a part time legislative service and session."

Hughes has also hinted at a constitutional amendment that would allow the Legislature to call itself into a special session.

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