AG Hood Undecided On Health Care Lawsuit

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood said Thursday he needs more time to evaluate a new federal health care law before deciding whether to challenge it in court.

Gov. Haley Barbour said he wants Mississippi to join more than a dozen other states in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law. And Barbour, a Republican, wants to join the suit regardless of whether Hood, a Democrat, chooses to represent the state.

"There is a pivotal constitutional argument that needs to be addressed," Barbour said in a statement Thursday. "Does the federal government have the constitutional authority to force American citizens to buy insurance and then tell them what they can buy and at what price?"

President Barack Obama signed the health care reform measure into law Tuesday. Under the law, most Americans would be required to buy health insurance by 2014.

Earlier this week, Barbour said he would give Hood until noon Thursday to say whether the attorney general's office would file a lawsuit. Barbour said he would file one himself, using private attorneys, if Hood chooses not to act.

Hood, a native of Houlka, said Thursday that Barbour is not authorized to file suit while the attorney general's office completes its review of the new federal law.

"Our office will seek the counsel of constitutional scholars within our university system and make a timely decision based upon the dry law - not anyone's agenda or political aspirations," Hood said in a publicly released letter to Barbour.

Barbour is head of the Republican Governors Association and has not dismissed the possibility of running for president in 2012. He can't seek a third term in Mississippi in 2011.

Hood said last week that he will seek re-election as attorney general next year.

Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum took the lead in a lawsuit filed by 13 state attorneys general. He has been joined by colleagues from South Carolina, Nebraska, Texas, Michigan, Utah, Pennsylvania, Alabama, South Dakota, Louisiana, Idaho, Washington and Colorado. Some states, including Wisconsin, are considering joining the suit.

Georgia is among the states filing its own lawsuit and not joining the one led by Florida.

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, a Republican, said Thursday he plans to appoint a special attorney general to file the lawsuit after Attorney General Thurbert Baker, a Democrat, declined Perdue's request to sue.

Vote in our poll question whether you believe a lawsuit is warranted.