Ravell Call, Deseret News
FILE - Rep. Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville speaks at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018.

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah lawmakers are a vote away from giving the Legislature the power to intervene in court cases on its own behalf.

Rep. Lavar Christensen, R-Draper, said SB171 would prevent putting the attorney general’s office in the position of having to decide who it represents as happened when former U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz resigned last year.

The Legislature sought an opinion from the attorney general on holding a special election to replace Chaffetz, but citing the governor as its client, the attorney general’s office refused to give the document to the Legislature.

“That won’t happen again,” Christensen said.

Rep. Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville, the bill’s House sponsor, said no single incident prompted the legislation. He said conflicts have arisen over the years where the Legislature’s interest weren’t fully and accurately represented in court.

“These are longstanding concerns that preceded us and will follow us,” he said.

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Nelson said the authority, which he says lawmakers would use sparingly, allows the Legislature to represent its position on laws it passes.

Rep. Lowry Snow, R-Santa Clara, raised concerns about the possibility the legislative and executive branches could be at odds in a court case. That would put a judge in the difficult position of having to choose between the two, he said.

The House passed the bill 61-8 with amendments, sending it back to the Senate for another vote. The earlier version passed there 21-5.