Citing Judge Roger Vinson's decision voiding the whole of last year's health care overhaul after finding the law's health insurance mandate unconstitutional, Alaska's Republican Governor Sean Parnell has said that the state will not pursue the development of health insurance exchanges. According to Parnell:
"The Florida court's declaratory judgment that the federal health care law is unconstitutional is the 'law of the land' as it applies to Alaska, and we will not proceed down an unlawful course to implement it."
Of course, as I noted earlier in the month, the actual meaning of Vinson's ruling has been somewhat foggy. Vinson did not issue a formal injunction, but suggested in his ruling that his declaratory judgment would effectively function as if he had. The federal government more or less ignored this suggestion, and did not immediately take action to clarify the meaning and practical effects of the ruling. That changed yesterday when the Department of Justice announced that it would request a clarification from Vinson:
The Justice Department on Thursday asked the Florida judge who struck down the health care overhaul to declare that the law must still be obeyed…In his ruling, Vinson implied that the government did not have the authority to enforce an unconstitutional law.
"We believe it is important to put to rest any doubts about the ability of states and other parties to continue to implement these critical programs and consumer protections provided under this statute," Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said.
Ilya Shapiro and Michael Cannon of the Cato Institute have made a fairly convincing case that the ruling should put a stop to the implementation of the law. Looks like we'll know for sure soon enough.