Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter on Wednesday became the first state chief executive to sign a measure requiring his attorney general to sue Congress if it passes health reforms that force residents to buy insurance. Similar legislation is pending in 37 other states.
Constitutional law experts say the move is mostly symbolic because federal laws supersede those of the states. But the movement reflects a growing national frustration with President Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul.
Democrats are hoping to pass a version of the reform by this weekend.
Last week, Virginia legislators passed a measure similar to Idaho's new law, but Otter was the first state chief executive to sign such a bill, according the American Legislative Exchange Council, which created model legislation for Idaho and other states. The Washington, D.C-based nonprofit group promotes limited government.
"Congress is planning to force an unconstitutional mandate on the states," said Herrera, the group's health task force director.
Otter, a Republican, already warned House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in December that Idaho was considering litigation if health reform went through. He signed the bill during his first such public ceremony of the 2010 Legislature.
"What the Idaho Health Freedom Act says is that the citizens of our state won't be subject to another federal mandate or turn over another part of their life to government control," Otter said.
Minority Democrats in Idaho who opposed the bill called any lawsuits over healthcare reform frivolous.
Senate Minority Leader Kate Kelly, D-Boise, also complained about the bill's possible price tag. Those who drafted the new law say enforcement may require an additional Idaho deputy attorney general at a cost of $100,000 a year.
Kelly said that was irresponsible when Idaho is grappling with a $200 million budget hole.
"For Democrats in the Legislature, our priority is jobs," she said. "We'd rather Governor Otter was holding a signing ceremony for (a jobs package) meant to put Idaho residents back to work."
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