By David Peck
In the Wyoming Legislature it sometimes pays to be persistent, and in the case of Sen. Ray Peterson (R-Lovell), he’s hoping the third time is the charm for his bill on Medicaid fraud.
Peterson’s bill to authorize civil recoveries for Medicaid fraud has passed the Senate in each of the last two sessions overwhelmingly, only to be defeated in the House of Representatives.
He’s trying again in 2013 as the general session of the 62nd Wyoming Legislature begins this week in Cheyenne. The session convened Tuesday and is expected to run through Thursday, Feb. 28, with three days (March 1, 4 and 5) set aside for additional work if needed.
After the first attempt in 2011, Peterson modified his bill to eliminate the “whistleblower” portion of the bill, wherein someone reporting fraud could receive some of the settlement or penalty, a practice allowed in about a dozen states, he said.
The bill (SF 83) creates the Wyoming Medicaid False Claim Act, which authorizes civil recoveries for the state. Currently, he said, Wyoming is operating under the federal false claims act, and the only option is criminal prosecution.
The bill passed 30-0 in the Senate in both 2011 and 2012. Two years ago it was defeated in the House Labor, Health and Social Services Committee, and last year it was killed in the House Judiciary Committee.
“I don’t know how it will fare this year,” Peterson said in a pre-session interview last Thursday.
The bill was received for introduction Tuesday in the Senate.
Another bill Peterson is sponsoring (SF 25) entitled “Recreation facilities and systems-detraction” would set up a method for public recreation system to split off or separate from an existing district and has been requested by citizens in Clark who wish to separate from the Powell Recreation District.
Assessed valuation in the Clark area has been rising and helping to fund the Powell Rec District, Peterson said, but residents feel the valuation can support a separate district in Clark.
“They don’t feel they’re getting their fair share back and want to go off on their own,” Peterson said, noting that Clark has only one vote on the Powell Rec Board in the form of board member Larry Dodge, who is leading the effort to separate, he noted.
“I expressed my concern about them going off on their own,” Peterson said “I told them they could be rich this year but paupers later, and it also creates another special district.”
Peterson said the issue has been percolating for two years and he has urged the two parties to work things out, but nothing has really changed, he said, so Clark residents have asked him to draft the bill to establish the separation process, which is somewhat similar to the process the Deaver-Frannie Fire Dept. used to separate from Powell and form a separate fire district in Big Horn County.
The separation bill was also received Tuesday for introduction in the Senate.
Peterson said he has also been asked by House Revenue Committee Chairman Mike Madden of Buffalo to co-sponsor a bill to require a worker who has been terminated for testing positive for an illegal substance in a drug test to pass another drug test before applying for unemployment benefits.
The new chairman of the Senate Revenue Committee, Peterson said he will miss the appropriations committee on which he served in recent years but is also looking forward to chairing Revenue.
“Part of me says I’m going to miss Appropriations, but the other part says, ‘Whew,’” Peterson said, noting the many days of hearings Appropriations members must attend every year.
“I’m looking forward to chairing a committee,” he added.
Peterson drove to Cheyenne Saturday and expected to attend Republican caucus meetings Sunday. The session convened Tuesday, and Gov. Matt Mead addressed a joint session of the legislature Wednesday morning.