JACKSON — 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.
Hood also said Gov. Haley Barbour is not authorized to file suit while the attorney general”s office completes its review.
Barbour”s office had no immediate response to Hood”s announcement.
More than a dozen other states are challenging the constitutionality of the health care overhaul, which President Barack Obama signed into law Tuesday.
Barbour, a Republican, had given Hood, a Democrat, until noon Thursday to say whether the attorney general”s office would file a lawsuit. Barbour said he would file one himself if Hood chooses not to act.
Barbour said the health care law might be unconstitutional because it will require most Americans to buy health insurance by 2014.
Hood said attorneys in his office are evaluating the law and will consult constitutional experts.
“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.
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