JACKSON, Miss. (Legal Newsline) - Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has decided to join the multistate challenge to federal health care reform, proceeding without state Attorney General Jim Hood.
Barbour wrote Hood Tuesday to express that the state will join a lawsuit filed in Florida federal court when the plaintiff states file their first amended complaint in May. A copy of the letter was obtained by the Web site Y'all Politics.
Hood had written Barbour on Friday, declining to join the suit he says was filed in haste.
"My decision to challenge this legislation was not taken lightly or made without thorough consideration," Barbour wrote. "The legislation would prove disastrous for Mississippi's economy, its budget and its taxpayers who would see their premiums and taxes increased as a result of it.
"You are certainly correct that challenging this act will be no easy task, especially as a matter of procedure. Success is uncertain, but I do not intend to ignore my duty simply because of procedural difficulty."
The state attorneys general who are challenging the legislation say it unfairly contains a mandate for individuals to have health insurance coverage or face an annual penalty of $695.
Businesses with more than 50 workers would have to provide coverage or pay a $2,000-a-worker penalty if any of their employees get government-subsidized plans on their own.
The challenge was filed March 23 after President Barack Obama signed it into law.
Hood said Mississippi's interests would be well-represented by the plaintiff states.
"Lawsuits are being filed almost daily challenging this legislation," Hood said. "Legions of lawyers will litigate all of the possible claims for years. Millions of dollars will be spent on these law firms."
In response, Barbour wrote that the outside counsel retained by the plaintiff states will make no more than $50,000 because of a cap on fees. That amount will be divided among the participating states.
Also, Mississippi hired a law firm that worked for free for advice.
From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at email@example.com.