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U.S. Senate panel votes in favor of state attorneys general right to choose venue

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WASHINGTON, Sept 23 (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee approved on Thursday legislation that would allow state attorneys general to choose which court hears their antitrust cases, a bill that could affect a pending lawsuit against Alphabet's Google.

The bill was sent to the full Senate by a voice vote.

Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat who sponsored the measure with Republican Mike Lee, said the measure would prevent state lawsuits from getting caught up in lengthy, multi-district litigation that takes years to resolve.

"This bill would simply strengthen the enforcement of our antitrust laws," she said.

Senator Alex Padilla, a California Democrat, and others expressed concern about the bill being retroactive, saying that it would affect a case that the Texas attorney general and others filed against Google.

In August, a judicial panel ruled against the attorneys general to move that fight from Texas to the Southern District of New York, where other similar cases were being heard.

The text of the bill says that it would go into effect on June 1, 2021, before the panel ruled.

Texas joined with other states to sue Google in mid-December, accusing the search and advertising company of breaking antitrust law by dominating all steps in the process of placing digital advertising. Publishers complain that one result has been lower revenues. Google has denied wrongdoing.

A companion measure to the Senate bill was one of six that passed the U.S. House Judiciary Committee in June, four of which were aimed specifically at reining in the power of big tech. It has not yet been considered by the full House, however.

Congress is also considering sharp increases in the budgets of the Justice Department's Antitrust Division and Federal Trade Commission, both of which enforce antitrust law. (Reporting by Diane Bartz Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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