Attorney General Rob McKenna defends health care lawsuit, release of Ref. 71 signatures

Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna, left, with Gordie Olson and Dick Hayek on May 12 at the Federal Way Kiwanis Club meeting at Old Country Buffet. - Andy Hobbs/The Mirror
Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna, left, with Gordie Olson and Dick Hayek on May 12 at the Federal Way Kiwanis Club meeting at Old Country Buffet.
— image credit: Andy Hobbs/The Mirror

Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna has made headlines over the national health care debate as well as a controversial court case on the anonymity of petition drives.

On Wednesday, McKenna shared his recent experiences with the Federal Way Kiwanis Club.

Referendum 71 petition signatures

On April 28, McKenna argued a case before the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the release of Referendum 71 petition signatures. The referendum, which failed at the polls in 2009, called for a repeal of the "everything but marriage" legislation in Washington state. In September, U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle blocked the release of the petition signatures, defending the signatures as anonymous political speech. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the ruling. Referendum 71 sponsors then took the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court.

McKenna argued in favor of releasing names of those who signed the petition.

"When the voters put themselves in the role of a legislator and say to the Secretary of State, ‘I am directing you to hold an election on this question,’ that should be a matter of public record because we do not legislate in private," McKenna said Wednesday.

The court is expected to decide the case by the end of June, said McKenna, who is confident the court will rule that petitions are public record.

The Supreme Court needs to establish boundaries, McKenna said, noting that similar petition controversies should be handled on a case by case basis.

Health care bill

McKenna's participation in a lawsuit over the national health care bill has casted him as a hero and a villain, depending on your side of the political aisle. McKenna, a Republican, acknowledged that the health care system needs to improve, but noted that health care is not a right — and until health care is a right, the government cannot mandate citizens to purchase it.

McKenna is among 20 attorneys general to file a complaint against two provisions in the federal health care bill: The health insurance mandate and Medicaid expansion.

McKenna said Congress is imposing tremendous costs by "commandeering state budgets" by acting unilaterally without the states' consent. He said the federal government is overstepping its powers.

"To satisfy this requirement, you will not be allowed to go out and buy just anything," McKenna said. "You will have to buy what the federal government tells you to buy. The federal government, in our country's history, has never ordered the American people to go into the private marketplace and spend their own money on a private product."

McKenna compared the requirement to state laws such as purchasing auto insurance.

"Auto insurance is a regulatory requirement that you have to satisfy to exercise the privilege of driving. The health insurance mandate is imposed on you simply because you exist," he said.

Learn more

Click here to learn more about the lawsuit over the health care bill.

Click here to learn more about the Referendum 71 petition issue.

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