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Governor signs off on reform challenge
McDonnell signs bill that is foundation of Virginia's challenge of federal health care reform

 McDonnell
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Date published: 3/25/2010

BY CHELYEN DAVIS

RICHMOND

--A day after President Obama signed the federal health care bill, Gov. Bob McDonnell ceremonially signed legislation to restrict its impact on Virginians.

The bills (four of them, although they will become just one law) signed by McDonnell exempt Virginia citizens from the "individual mandate," the provision in the federal law that requires individuals to buy health insurance or face a penalty.

It passed by wide margins in both houses. Del. Mark Cole, R-Spotsylvania, had introduced a similar bill, which was incorporated into the final legislation.

"This is a historic unfunded mandate on the people of Virginia," McDonnell said at a signing ceremony attended by the sponsors of the bills. "We don't believe that the United States Congress should mandate the purchase of services."

McDonnell said he expects the federal bill to "dramatically ratchet up" Virginia's budget for Medicaid services, which has already become a big state expense.

He also said there is a need to reform health insurance practices, but he believes the federal bill is unconstitutional, based largely on the individual mandate.

That's basically the argument that underlies a lawsuit filed Tuesday by state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who argues that the federal health care legislation violates this Virginia bill and the interstate commerce clause, among other things.

"We will see what the courts have to say about just how far the Congress has gone," Cuccinelli said yesterday.

Thirteen other states have joined another lawsuit in Florida, but Cuccinelli said Virginia is going it alone, in large part because the legislation signed by McDonnell gives Virginia a unique legal standing, since the state will be defending its own law.

"We're filing in Virginia primarily because we have a Virginia statute to defend," he said.

Democrats say Cuccinelli is wasting taxpayer time and money on a "frivolous" lawsuit. Yesterday, they filed a Freedom of Information Act request with Cuccinelli's office, asking for an accounting of how much staff time and money has gone into the lawsuit.

Democratic Party of Virginia Executive Director David Mills said Democrats want to know "the amount of taxpayer money being wasted."

"It's a shame that Virginia's attorney general has chosen to use his office to advance a right-wing agenda," Sen. Don McEachin, D-Henrico said at a news conference held by Democrats. "Our Republican statewide officeholders are out of step with Virginia and with America."


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