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Arizona Supreme Court to hear Brewer's appeal on challenge to Medicaid expansion

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PHOENIX — The Arizona Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether conservative Republican legislators may challenge Gov. Jan Brewer's expansion of Medicaid health care coverage for low-income people.

The state high court on Wednesday announced without comment that the justices will consider Brewer's appeal of a Court of Appeals decision that revived the lawsuit filed last year by Republican lawmakers.

The mid-level court's April decision said lawmakers may sue over their contention that a hospital assessment that funds the expansion is financially based on a tax requiring two-thirds votes by the Legislature, not just the majority votes of a coalition of Democrats and some Republicans.

The expansion was a key part of President Barack Obama's health care law.

Brewer has said that if the courts block her plan, thousands of Arizonans would lose access to health care, hospitals will be financially damaged and the state's finances will be hurt.

Brewer on Wednesday applauded the court's decision to consider her appeal, saying the state was "one step closer to ending the baseless lawsuit." She expressed optimism that the justices would agree with a trial judge who said lawmakers don't have legal standing to challenge the expansion.

Christina Sandefur, a Goldwater Institute lawyer helping to represent the challengers, said the case is important to protect the integrity of the legislative process and Arizona's voter-approved constitutional requirement for two-thirds votes for legislative decisions that increase state revenue.

If the justices don't protect that voter mandate, "it leaves room for an end-run," Sandefur said.

Sandefur said the court could either end the challenge by deciding the lawmakers don't have standing to sue or keep the case alive by sending it back to trial court for litigation over the tax issue.

The Supreme Court's brief order said the court will hear arguments on the case but did not immediately say when. The Supreme Court normally takes several months to decide cases.

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