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Gregoire, lawmakers consider blocking McKenna suit

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on March 24, 2010 at 2:39 pm |
March 24, 2010 2:39 pm

Gov. Chris Gregoire says she is open to a potential move to block Attorney General Rob McKenna from spending state money on a lawsuit challenging federal health care reform.

As Jim Brunner reported in today’s Seattle Times, Democrats in the Legislature are considering such a budget proviso. They and Gregoire are upset that their state’s top cop is taking part in a 13-state lawsuit over a bill they say would help Washington patients and taxpayers.

McKenna says the requirement for people to buy health insurance or face fines is unconstitutional, citing the Tenth Amendment preserving states’ rights and the Commerce Clause on interstate commerce.

Gregoire has seen no proposal from lawmakers, but told reporters today she was open to the idea. The former attorney general doesn’t see it as interfering with McKenna’s turf. Under budget-cutting rules, she said, her office scrutinizes every request by the attorney general to spend money on outside experts in legal cases.

Rep. Jeannie Darneille, who chairs the House subcommittee overseeing the attorney general’s funding, told me legislators have discussed a proviso that would limit what that funding could be spent on.

“This is clearly outside of the interest or intent of the Legislature or the executive branch,” Darneille said of the lawsuit. She acknowledged that she’s sensitive to the need for separation-of-powers – “There is a delicate dance, because you have separately elected officials” – but said the Legislature should exercise oversight of the budget.

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