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Published: Tuesday, 3/30/2010

State's top lawyer to skip health fray

Cordray Cordray

COLUMBUS - Calling lawsuits filed by more than a dozen states to challenge the constitutionality of the new federal health care law "a waste of taxpayer money," Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray said Monday he won't join the fray.

The state's top lawyer rejected formal requests from Ohio's eight congressional Republicans and 21 GOP members of the state Senate and an unofficial challenge from fall election opponent Mike DeWine to file a lawsuit to block new mandates under the law from being enforced here.

"The first [argument] is that Congress does not have the power under the commerce clause to legislate affecting health care through an individual mandate that people purchase insurance," Mr. Cordray said. "It's a fanciful argument."

He said getting a decision from a court to determine that the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution, which generally favors federal law when it conflicts with state law, doesn't apply to health care would require an "activist" court ruling that Republicans usually decry.

Mr. DeWine, Mr. Cordray's Republican opponent and a former U.S. senator, vowed yesterday that he would file a lawsuit if he's elected this fall. Many of the law's mandates, including that individuals buy medical coverage, won't take effect until 2014.

"Our system is one of limited powers specifically enumerated to the federal government," Mr. DeWine said. "This is a sweeping law which has very serious consequences for the state of Ohio. Cordray is ducking the issue. This is an issue that must be decided by the federal courts and ultimately the [U.S.] Supreme Court.

"It seems to me that it's our responsibility to be involved in it, to look at it from Ohio's perspective and point of view," Mr. DeWine said. "It's not like this attorney general doesn't file lawsuits with other attorney generals all the time."

Mr. Cordray said he did not discuss his decision with Gov. Ted Strickland, a fellow Democrat. Unlike some other states where the health-care litigation issue has pitted governors and attorneys general of opposite parties against each other, Ohio's top executive and top lawyer are on the same page.

Both Mr. Cordray and Mr. DeWine are unopposed in the May 4 primary election for their parties' nominations. In the fall, they will also face Libertarian candidate Marc Allan Feldman.

- Jim Provance

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