False Claims Act and Other Judiciary Committee Work

In the Judiciary Committee, we continued to review H.120, which proposes a state False Claims Act. The basic purpose of the Act is to protect public funds, and the state stands to collect significant money should it enact the law.

The Act would improve the state’s ability to recover penalties from businesses and others who defraud state government. It would help detect fraud by providing incentives to individuals, known as relators, to bring actions against companies that have made false claims in their dealings with the state.

H.120 is modeled after the federal False Claims Act, which has resulted in the recovery of billions of dollars from defendants. The federal law is frequently used to address Medicaid fraud, including in Vermont. Because Medicaid is a joint federal and state program, approximately 46% of any recovery in such actions is shared with Vermont. To give states an incentive to enact their own False Claims Act, and thus increase enforcement, the U.S. Congress has provided that any state adopting such an act would receive an additional 10% of any funds recovered. Judiciary has heard from various interests and, with certain adjustments to the bill, most testimony has favored enactment.

Judiciary also heard testimony on H.95, relating to jurisdiction over delinquency proceedings by the Family Division of the Superior Court, and H.105, relating to the online dissemination of sexually explicit photographs or videos of individuals without their consent. In the coming week, the committee will consider redrafts of these bills.

In addition to false claims, delinquency, and “revenge porn,” the committee took up H.103, which would add psychological abuse as a ground for obtaining a Restraint From Abuse order. Although recognizing the concerns related to such injuries, testimony on behalf of the Judicial Branch and other witnesses emphasized the great difficulty in basing emergency restraining orders on allegations of psychological abuse.

Also, this week I joined the basketball caucus, a Friday early morning get-together at Montpelier’s Recreation Building of eight to twelve legislators and other Statehouse stalwarts. We have real jostling for advantage and elbows flying on the court for an hour in advance of the verbal jostling that might occur on the House floor later in the day.