Colorado Dems confirm: Cuts to AG’s office over health reform suit still on the table

DENVER–House Majority Leader Paul Weissmann, D-Louisville, confirmed a Thursday morning Colorado Independent report that Democratic lawmakers were considering cutting from the budget long bill funds for the Attorney General’s office to try to put an end to the lawsuit filed by AG John Suthers on behalf of Colorado citizens questioning the Constitutionality of federal health reform legislation. Although no lawmaker introduced the proposed cut, Weissmann said the proposal remained under consideration.

Paul Weissmann and John Suthers

“I was on board with it,” Weissmann said, but he added that Democrats decided it wasn’t a battle they wanted to pick up in the House. “We were discussing cutting discretionary spending… if the AG still wanted to prosecute the case with pro bono attorneys, he would be welcome to do that.”

Senate President Brandon Schaffer also confirmed the proposal had been considered. He said it was still in play but too early to know whether Senate Democrats would try to introduce such an amendment to the Senate version of the long bill. “We don’t know yet,” he said.

Mike Saccone, communications director for the AG’s office, said that although he wasn’t certain what cuts Democrats might consider, it would be unrelated in a practical sense to the suit. Work on the health reform lawsuit was being done pro-bono already by the State of Florida, where Attorney General Bill McCollum, who is running for governor, is spearheading the suit.

“We have spent no money to be involved in this lawsuit. No billable hours et cetera. Florida, which is the lead office on the suit, is doing all the heavy lifting so far. No discretionary. Nothing. No billable hours,” Saccone told the Colorado Independent.

But any potential cut would have an effect on the office, of course, he said.

“Obviously any funding cuts the legislature can make under its authority in the Constitution would affect the legal services we provide to other state agencies and to the people of Colorado.”

Deputy Attorney General Geoffrey Blue told the Colorado Independent Wednesday that Democratic lawmakers were considering amending the long bill to cut his office’s budget.

Most U.S. constitutional legal scholars— including heavy hitters in Colorado–- say the lawsuit brought by nearly a dozen attorneys general has little chance of success and amounts to a partisan waste of state tax money at a time when the state needs every dime.

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