Arizona, Nevada Governors Bypass AGs to Join Healthcare Suit

April 7, 2010 ( – Apparently Michigan isn’t the only state with executive branch “conflicts” over the status of the new federal health care legislation.

Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons, a Republican, has announced that he will hire outside counsel to challenge the constitutionality of the federal healthcare legislation – since state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat, has declined to do so.   

“This healthcare nationalization plan is illegal because it is unconstitutional,” Gibbons said in a statement.

The conflict is a mirror-image of one that recently emerged in Michigan – where the state’s Republican Attorney General joined attorneys general from a dozen other states in filing a challenge, even as the state’s Democratic governor took steps to implement the measure (see Michigan of Two Minds on Healthcare Bill).  

Cortez Masto, who maintains that the governor lacked the authority to name outside counsel, issued a statement that said “My office is now in the regrettable position of having to consider the necessary legal options to take in response,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

Arizona Joins In

Meanwhile Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, a Republican, announced last night that her state will be joining the growing number of states opposing the healthcare bill.  She signed a bill on April 1 that gave her the authority to skirt the state’s Democratic attorney general, Terry Goddard, who declined to sue on the state’s behalf, according to the Associated Press.

Reuters reports that Indiana, North Dakota, and Mississippi have also joined in the lawsuit, led by Florida, which claims the new law violates state-government rights in the U.S. Constitution and will force massive new spending on hard-pressed state governments (see More States Join Health Reform Legal Challenge) .     

Nevada’s Cortez Masto has said that an analysis by her staff shows a lawsuit challenging the recently passed federal health care act would have little chance of success.  In a four-page letter, she advised Gov. Jim Gibbons the legislation “appears to be supported by Congress’ authority under the Commerce and Spending clauses” of the U.S. Constitution, according to the Nevada Appeal.  “Although the above analysis is not exhaustive, it appears that other legal challenges to the act also fall victim to Congress’ broad powers,” the letter states.

“In my professional judgment, joining the litigation filed by 14 other states, as you have suggested, is not warranted by existing law at this time,” Masto wrote, according to the report.  However, she also said that by not joining the suit, “Nevada can ride for free at this time by allowing other states to foot the bill.”

That said, Gibbons has now signed an executive order for the Silver State to join the multistate challenge to the federal law.  The Republican governor on Tuesday said the state would be represented by Las Vegas lawyer Mark Hutchison.  Gibbons says the measure will cost Nevada taxpayers $2.4 billion in additional state and federal taxes.

The suit was originally filed by attorneys general in Florida, South Carolina, Nebraska, Texas, Michigan, Utah, Pennsylvania, Alabama, South Dakota, Idaho, Washington, Louisiana, and Colorado (see Obama Signs Health Reform and the Fight Begins).