LAS VEGAS (CN) - Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons on Tuesday appointed an attorney to represent the state and join a federal lawsuit in Florida to block federal health care reform. The Republican governor has been publicly feuding with Democratic Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, who refused his request to file the lawsuit. She blasted the decision on Tuesday and hinted at possible legal action. Both officials are up for re-election.
Gibbons said attorney Mark Hutchison, with Hutchison & Steffen, will work for free, and that other fees, which he expects to be less than $5,000, will be paid with private donations.
"I was disappointed that the Attorney General of Nevada refused to fight for the constitutional rights of Nevada citizens," Gibbons said in a statement, "but I refuse to surrender on this issue. We must not allow the federal government to intrude into the lives of Nevadans this way."
Masto, who had said the new healthcare laws pass constitutional muster when she declined his request to file suit last month, blasted the governor on Tuesday.
"The governor does not have the power to suspend the laws of our state by issuing an executive order," Masto said. "The law is very clear that the attorney general is the legal adviser on all state matters arising in the executive branch of the state. The responsibility to commence litigation on behalf of our state is not the governor's to exercise unilaterally, and it makes no difference whether the legal representation is free or not."
She also said her office "is now in the regrettable position of having to consider the necessary legal options to take in response to the governor's most recent action."
Gibbons argues that the laws violate states' rights, and that it will cost already cash-strapped Nevadans $2.4 billion, including $600 million from state taxes and $1.8 billion in federal taxes.
"This health care nationalization plan is illegal because it is unconstitutional," Gibbons said, "The arrogance of this administration to force all Nevadans to purchase something (health insurance from private companies) or face IRS penalties is outrageous and wrong."
Meanwhile, the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services is set to ask the legislature's Interim Finance Committee for $500,000 next month to start planning for the anticipated impact of the new law.
Fourteen states sued the federal government last month almost immediately after President Obama signed the healthcare reform bill into law.
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