Georgia

This article is part of the State Status and News series related to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

In Georgia, state Attorney General Thurbert Baker, a Democratic Party member, announced that he would not pursue PPACA-related civil litigation against the Obama Administration. Baker's decision led Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, a Republican Party member, to announce that he would consider appointing an attorney, who would work pro bono, to pursue the litigation on behalf of the state. One report1) quotes Baker's acknowledgment of the “budgetary and policy differences” represented by the PPACA.

Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker won't join a lawsuit challenging federal health care reform legislation, claiming the challenges of other AGs have “no legal merit.”

Baker made his stance known Wednesday in a letter to Gov. Sonny Perdue, a Republican who had asked Baker to initiate the litigation. Baker, a Democrat, is running for governor this year.

[…]

“No public policy goal–no matter how important or well-intentioned–can be allowed to trample the protections and rights guaranteed by our Constitution,” Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said.

The attorneys general filed their lawsuit in the Northern District of Florida in Pensacola, just minutes after Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law.

Attorneys general a party to the lawsuit are from Florida, South Carolina, Nebraska, Texas, Utah, Louisiana, Alabama, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Idaho, South Dakota and Washington.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli filed a separate lawsuit in his state, while Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell is the only Democrat who joined Republicans in their effort to block the law.

Baker's letter says their argument will fail because the only decision on the topic, a challenge to a Massachusetts law that required citizens to purchase health insurance, failed.

O'Brien, John. “Ga. AD Thinks Health Care Challenge Will Fail”. LegalNewsline. March 24, 2010. Available online as of 2010-04-06.

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue said Thursday he plans to appoint a special attorney general to sue the federal government over a new federal health care reform law.

Speaking at a news conference Thursday, the Republican governor said he plans to assemble a team of pro bono lawyers to file the suit after Attorney General Thurbert Baker, a Democrat, declined Perdue's request to sue.

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Several lawyers have volunteered to take the state's case without pay, he said. While declining to name those lawyers or give a timeline, the governor said his office would work quickly to select a team of legal experts.

The issue has fast become politically heated at the Capitol, where Republicans who hold the majority have been attacking Baker's decision not to follow Perdue's direction and sue.

State Rep. Ed Setzler said if Baker moves to block Perdue's selection of an outside lawyer to act as a special attorney general some House Republicans may move forward with articles of impeachment.

“It is my hope we wouldn't need to do that,” the Republican from Acworth said.

A spokesman for Baker said he had no plans to oppose Perdue's authority to tap an outside attorney.

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Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who appeared with Perdue, said he believes voters will show their disagreement with the bill in November's midterm elections and in the next presidential election. Both men expressed strong disapproval for threats that have been made in some parts of the country against Democrats who voted for the bill.

“I oppose anybody using vile language, making threats,” Gingrich said. “Anybody who's angry ought to focus their anger into the political process.”

Brumback, Kate. “Ga. Governor To Name Special AG For Health Lawsuit”. BusinessWeek. March 25, 2010. Available online as of 2010-04-06.

Georgia's insurance commissioner will keep the state out of the first phase of a new federal health care law that would offer subsidized premiums to people with health problems.

In a letter obtained Monday by The Associated Press, Republican John Oxendine said Georgia should not take part in the creation of an insurance pool, backed by $5 billion in federal money, that would help high-risk people who have been uninsured for at least six months.

Federal health officials said they will run a coverage program in the state if Georgia doesn't take part.

“By law and by design, we will ensure that people in states that don't participate will have an option,” Jeanne Lambrew, health reform director at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, told reporters Monday.

In the letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Oxendine said he has “no confidence” the program will not be a burden on Georgia taxpayers. The program is funded by all federal money, but Oxendine said he worries that down the road the state will have to foot the bill.

“I'm not going to subject Georgia taxpayers and the Georgia treasury to something that's going to be a burden on them,” Oxendine said in an interview.

[…]

The federal government will pump money into the high-risk pools, bringing down premiums so more people can sign up. Government economic experts estimate that 375,000 uninsured people with health problems would gain coverage this year through the program.

But the same experts - analysts for Medicare - also question whether the $5 billion allocated is enough to fund the program until 2014. The projected the funds will run out by 2012, leaving beneficiaries - and lawmakers - in a quandary.

Administration officials have said they will seek more money from Congress if necessary.

McCaffrey, Shannon. “Ga. to skip premium help under new health law”. Washington Post. April 12, 2010, 3:52 PM ET. Available online as of 2010-04-12. Emphasis added.

[…]

“We welcome Georgia to our efforts to protect the constitutional rights of our citizens as well as the sovereignty of our states,” McCollum said in a statement.

“The federal government cannot mandate that all citizens buy qualifying health care coverage or be forced to pay a tax penalty – this is unconstitutional,” he said.

“We will aggressively pursue this lawsuit to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary to prevent this unprecedented expansion of federal powers, impact upon state sovereignty, and encroachment on our freedom,” said McCollum.

McCollum said last Wednesday that Indiana, North Dakota, Mississippi, Nevada and Arizona had joined in the lawsuit.

South Carolina, Nebraska, Texas, Utah, Louisiana, Alabama, Colorado, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Washington, Idaho, and South Dakota had previously joined the legal challenge.

All of these states' attorneys general are Republicans, except for Louisiana and Georgia, where the post is held by Democrats.

Another state, Virginia, has filed a separate suit, arguing the new law's requirements that most Americans buy health insurance clash with a state law that exempts Virginians from federal fines to be imposed for not owning health insurance.

[…]

Brown, Tom. “Georgia joins lawsuit against healthcare overhaul” Reuters. April 13, 2010, 4:24 PM ET. Available online as of 2010-04-13.

1) Brown, Robbie. “Georgia Attorney General Spurns Suit on Health Care”. New York Times. March 20, 2010. Available online as of 2010-04-04.