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Va. health care reform lawsuit clears 1st hurdle

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By The Staff

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia's lawsuit challenging the Obama administration's health care reform law cleared its first legal hurdle Monday as a federal judge ruled the law raises a host of complex constitutional issues.

U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson's decision stemmed from Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's claims that Congress exceeded its authority under the Constitution's Commerce Clause by requiring citizens to buy health insurance or pay a penalty.

Hudson's ruling denied the Justice Department's attempt to have the lawsuit dismissed, saying further hearings must take place before he can weigh the merits of the case. An Oct. 18 hearing had previously been set in the case.

"Unquestionably, this regulation radically changes the landscape of health insurance coverage in America," Hudson wrote in his 32-page decision.

The Virginia General Assembly passed legislation this year exempting state residents from the federal coverage mandate. Hudson wrote that the attorney general had a right to defend that state law.

Cuccinelli announced in March that he would challenge the national law. More than a dozen other state attorneys general have filed a separate lawsuit in Florida challenging the federal law, but Virginia's lawsuit is the first to go before a judge.