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The Associated Press March 23, 2010, 3:45PM ET

Va. AG sues over federal health care overhaul

Virginia's attorney general on Tuesday made good on his promise to sue the federal government over health care overhaul legislation, saying the new law is unconstitutional because it requires people to purchase health insurance or face penalties.

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli argues the mandate exceeds the federal government's power to regulate interstate commerce under the U.S. Constitution because being a Virginia resident in itself isn't a function or activity of commercial transaction, and thus people cannot be compelled to purchase goods or services.

"Requiring citizen-to-citizen subsidy or redistribution is contrary to the foundations of the constitutional compact," the complaint says.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Richmond on Tuesday shortly after President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law. It names U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius as a defendant.

Cuccinelli argues that the court should declare that the federal health insurance mandate, which would take effect in 2014, as unconstitutional. Because the requirement is an essential provision of the overall law, "the entire act is likewise invalid," he says in the complaint.

Unlike attorneys general in 13 other states who filed a joint lawsuit against the new law, Cuccinelli spokesman Brian Gottstein said Virginia filed a separate action because the federal legislation directly conflicts with the recently passed Virginia Healthcare Freedom Act. Of the 13 attorneys general, 12 are Republicans.

Virginia's law, which would take effect in July, says no resident can be compelled to carry health insurance, nor can they be forced to pay a fine or penalty for refusing such coverage. Gov. Bob McDonnell is expected to sign the law Wednesday.

"The collision between the state and federal schemes also creates an immediate, actual controversy involving antagonistic assertions of right," the complaint says.

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