LAS VEGAS — Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons signed an executive order on yesterday for his state to join 14 other states suing the federal government over health care reform.
The Republican governor said the state would be represented by Las Vegas lawyer Mark Hutchison after Democratic Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto refused an earlier directive from Gibbons to join the multistate challenge to the health bill passed by Congress and signed by President Obama.
“Overall, the bill is unconstitutional and should not be allowed to stand,” Gibbons said at a news conference where he signed the order.
The measure will cost Nevada taxpayers $2.4 billion in additional state and federal taxes, Gibbons said.
Gibbons said the state will pay less than $5,000 to join the lawsuit, which is filed in federal court in Pensacola, Fla. He said the cost was worthwhile given the cost of the legislation if it stands.
Hutchison will not be paid to represent the state, but he said he imagines the work will require hundreds of hours per month.
Masto said in a statement that Gibbons doesn’t have the power to issue an executive order that suspends the laws of the state.
“The law is very clear that the Attorney General is the legal advisor on all state matters arising in the executive branch of the state,” she said. “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.”
Masto said her office will now consider legal options to respond to the executive order.
Hutchison said Nevada’s objections to the law will be similar to other states, but he said the suit will be stronger with Nevada taking part.
“The constitutional questions which are raised by this litigation are going to be pretty much universal across the state lines, I think,” he said.
“It’s always a better lawsuit and judges always pay more attention when there are more parties involved,” Hutchison said. “When you’ve got one state that’s fighting the federal government it’s one thing. But when you’ve got 36 states that are fighting the federal government it’s another.”
Gibbons said the move was not political, even though he faces a tough bid this year for re-election.
“Unfortunately, the Constitution is neither Republican nor Democrat and that answer should be that the Constitution is primary and supersedes any consideration of politics,” Gibbons said.
“We have to do this,” he said. “It is a must for the executive branch to undertake this litigation.”