Brewer gets OK to sidestep Goddard and sue federal government

Chris Rizo Apr. 1, 2010, 2:00pm

Jan Brewer (R)

Terry Goddard (D)

PHOENIX, Ariz. (Legal Newsline)-Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer can now skirt the state's attorney general and file a lawsuit over the recently enacted health care overhaul that Republican AGs around the country say is unconstitutional.

The Republican-led state Legislature granted Brewer the authority Wednesday amid Attorney General Terry Goddard's refusal to sue the federal government over the health care law, which will require Americans to have medical insurance.

Under the law, beginning in 2014, individuals who flout the mandate face an annual penalty of $695, while employers could face penalties of $2,000 per worker for not offering affordable health coverage.

Goddard, who is challenging Brewer for governor, has declined to join more than a dozen other states in filing a challenge to the health care overhaul signed last Tuesday by President Barack Obama.

A group of Republican attorneys general and one Democratic AG argue in lawsuits that Congress violated the Commerce Clause when they passed the law.

Last week, Goddard said a legal challenge would be unlikely to succeed. He said in a statement that the two lawsuits in play have "little chance" of prevailing.

"My office has carefully examined both the federal health care legislation and the lawsuits challenging it," Goddard said. "Our lawyers agree with the overwhelming majority of constitutional scholars of both parties that the lawsuits have little merit and that participating in them would be a waste of scarce taxpayer dollars."

For his part, Arizona House Minority Leader David Lujan sought to block Brewer from suing over the national health care bill.

Lujan, a Democratic candidate for state attorney general, said Monday that he is "appalled" that Brewer wants to challenge the law. On Monday, Lujan, D-Phoenix, said was planning to introduce legislation that would blunt the governor's attempts to use taxpayer funds to file suit.

"The governor is advancing a frivolous lawsuit that amounts to a total waste of taxpayer money," Lujan said. "Our leaders are supposed to stand up for Arizonans against special interests. It's unfortunate that Governor Brewer is seeking to block tax cuts for small businesses, while siding with insurance companies that would refuse to cover children with preexisting illnesses."

Lujan is seeking to follow Goddard as the Grand Canyon State's chief legal officer.

Current parties to the larger health care lawsuit are the AGs from Florida, South Carolina, Nebraska, Texas, Utah, Louisiana, Alabama, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Idaho, South Dakota and Washington.

Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell is the only Democrat suing over the legislation signed into law last week. Virginia's attorney general filed a separate lawsuit in his state last week.

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