North Carolina

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

Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue on Tuesday sidetracked a Republican effort to get North Carolina to join 15 other states that have filed a lawsuit challenging the new federal health care law.

Republicans had hoped to get the Council of State — a body of the state's 10 top executive branch elected officials — to appropriate money to pay for legal fees for such a suit.

But Perdue said it was inappropriate for the council to take up the health care issue because the state's chief lawyer, Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper, was in Charlotte attending a law enforcement meeting that she said had been scheduled for months.

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Two blocks away, about 150 opponents of the health care law held a rally urging Perdue and Cooper to join the law suit. The rally, sponsored by the state chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group, attracted key GOP lawmakers including Senate Republican leader Phil Berger of Eden and House Republican leader Paul “Skip” Stam of Apex.

Republicans have said they will introduce legislation when the legislature reconvenes in May to allow citizens to opt out any mandates of the new health care law.

Those attending the rally carried such signs as “Obamacare is socialism” and “Kill The Bill.”

Niolet, Ben. “N. Carolina's Perdue Sidetracks Effort to Force Health Care Suit”. Raleigh News & Observer also Miami Herald. April 6, 2010. Available online as of 2010-04-07.

Huntersville and Cornelius passed resolutions this week asking the state attorney general to consider suing the federal government over the recently passed health care legislation.

Huntersville passed two resolutions Monday, April 5, asking for a lawsuit. The first lawsuit questioned the constitutionality of federal health-care reform, while the second resolution asks for the suit on the grounds that the government can’t force citizens to purchase a specific product, like insurance.

Commissioner Charles Jeter penned the resolution.

In Cornelius, commissioners voted the same night to request the suit because adding more people to the state funded Medicaid rolls would be too much of a burden on the state.

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“This resolution addresses the potential fiscal impact” of the new federal health care law, said Rinker, who chaired the meeting in place of vacationing Mayor Jeff Tarte. The resolution is “not based on policy differences.”

“The reality of unfunded mandates is something that has been recognized by all parties on all sides,” Rinker said.

On Wednesday, Rinker said unconfirmed estimates say additional Medicaid coverage could cost states hundreds of millions of dollars.

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Lanier, Josh; DeLoach, Frank. “Two towns vote for state to join healthcare lawsuits”. Carolina Weekly. Issue dated April 9, 2010. Available online as of 2010-04-08.

There have been rallies, petitions, letters, news releases and political maneuvers meant to get Attorney General Roy Cooper to say “yes.”

So far, he has said nothing.

Cooper has been the focus of pressure, particularly by conservatives, to have North Carolina join a lawsuit challenging the legality of the new federal health care law. Attorneys general in 13 states, including South Carolina, have filed a suit that claims the law “represents an unprecedented encroachment on the liberty of individuals” and that the federal government does not have the right to force Americans to have health insurance. A 14th state, Virginia, filed its own lawsuit.

Cooper, through letters and a spokeswoman, has said his office is looking into it. Requests for an interview Wednesday failed.

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Talley said the issue of the health care lawsuit is being reviewed by Christopher Browning, the state's solicitor general, a job Cooper created in 2004 to handle complex cases before the state and federal appellate courts. Browning is reviewing case law as well as material provided by the Florida Attorney General's Office, which led the 13-state lawsuit. Cooper's office generally reviews requests by elected officials to join a lawsuit or handle a case, Talley said.

Cooper's official posture, that he is reviewing the case, is meeting with skepticism by conservatives.

“I would say that it appears to me that the failure, his failure or refusal to respond on the merits has what appears to me more to do with his political affiliation than whether or not the suit has merits,” Senate Republican Leader Phil Berger said. “This is not an issue that just got dumped on his desk today where he's being asked, 'Decide right now.' ”

Berger said that if Cooper announced that he thought the case had no merit, he would respect the decision.

“I would disagree with his conclusion, but I would say he, as the attorney general, is the one that has the authority to make that call,” Berger said.

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Niolet, Benjamin. “Cooper is Copy As GOP Pushes Health-Law Suit”. (Charolette) News Observer. Available online as of 2010-04-08.

A political rebellion is brewing inside an old funeral home near the state Capitol here. Frustrated liberals and labor organizers are taking aim at the Democratic Party, rushing to gather enough signatures to start a third party that they believe could help oust three Democratic congressmen.

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Organizers say they are so fed up with Democrats who did not support health-care reform that they simply do not care.

“Our whole agenda is to turn that apple cart around and say, 'No more are we going to blindly support you because you're a Democrat,' ” said Dana S. Cope, executive director of the 55,000-member State Employees Association of North Carolina (SEANC), which is leading the effort. “We're going to support you because you're right on the issues and if you're not right on the issues, we're going to remove you from office.”

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SEANC and its parent group, the Service Employees International Union, possibly the nation's most politically powerful labor union, are funding the effort, which was announced April 8. In the days since, they have hired more than 100 canvassers who are rounding up the signatures needed to qualify as a third party on the general election ballot.

This is a top priority for outgoing SEIU President Andy Stern, who considers it a way to hold Democratic lawmakers accountable for their health-care votes. “It's not a fly-by-night kind of thing,” said SEIU spokeswoman Lori Lodes. “We're making a very strong commitment to doing this. There is significant money behind it . . . There's not a ceiling to what we're willing to do.”

The unions are giving voice to progressive activists across this state who say they feel betrayed by Reps. Larry Kissell, Heath Shuler and Mike McIntyre, Democrats who sided with Republicans against the health-care bill.

In Senate and House races across the country, emboldened liberals are going after lawmakers who, as they see it, have not sufficiently championed President Obama's agenda. So far, these family feuds, which also include Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter's run for Blanche Lincoln's Senate seat, largely have been confined to Democratic primaries.

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Kissell's spokeswoman declined requests for an interview with the congressman but provided a statement from him explaining his vote. Kissell said the country needs health-care reform but voted against the bill because it would have cut Medicare funding. He had made a campaign promise never to cut Medicare and said in the statement, “I am a man of my word.”

That explanation only aggravated Democratic activists.

“Health reform legislation is the most important piece of legislation for the past 40 years, and when you are asked as a member of Congress to vote on something that critical and you pick little teeny excuses, that's cowardly,” said Greg Rideout, spokesman for North Carolina First. “It's time for us to create a third way.”

Rucker, Philip. “North Carolina Democrats' votes against health care push labor to form party”. Washington Post. April 19, 2010. Available online as of 2010-04-19.

As lawmakers returned to the legislative building for Monday's opening session, they were greeted by Tea Party members who are upset about health care reform.

Tea partiers say their message to North Carolina lawmakers is to join other states that are suing to stop health care reform.

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But minutes later they found Senator Swindell standing next to an elevator.

“There he is, right there!” someone yelled.

Swindle told the group the health care bill is a federal matter, not one handled by state lawmakers.

Pitman replied, “Well, I just feel as our representative, you could at least read the bill even though it's a national [issue].”

The Senator responded, “We have enough to do here.”

Among other issues faced by lawmakers is a state budget that Senate Democrats say will not contain teacher pay raises and bonuses for state employees who were furloughed last year.

“Tea Partiers to NC lawmakers: Stop health care reform”. WTVD-TV/DT. May 12, 2010. Available online as of 2010-05-12.