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BILL AS INTRODUCED 2007-2008

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H.756

Introduced by Representatives Potter of Clarendon, Helm of Castleton, Bray of New Haven, Copeland-Hanzas of Bradford, Leriche of Hardwick, Marcotte of Coventry, Botzow of Pownal, Clarkson of Woodstock, Evans of Essex, Haas of Rochester, Jewett of Ripton, Malcolm of Pawlet, McCullough of Williston, Mook of Bennington, Peltz of Woodbury, Perry of Richford, Randall of Troy, Sharpe of Bristol and Stevens of Shoreham

Referred to Committee on

Date:

Subject:  Insurance; workers’ compensation; fraud

Statement of purpose:  This bill proposes to increase the penalties for certain instances of workers’ compensation fraud.

AN ACT RELATING TO WORKERS’ COMPENSATION FRAUD IN THE FORESTRY AND FOREST PRODUCTS INDUSTRIES

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1.  FINDINGS

The general assembly finds that:

(1)  The forests of Vermont are integral to the economy, culture, beauty, and appeal of the state.

(2)  The forest-based manufacturing and forest-related recreation and tourism contribute $1.5 billion to the Vermont economy annually and revenues from forest-related recreation and tourism activities totaled $485 million in 2005.

(3)  The forest-based manufacturing industry provides employment for 6,379 people and generates a payroll of over $207.4 million.

(4)  Workers’ compensation insurance rates for the forestry and forest products industries are significantly higher than industry rates in neighboring states and significantly higher than those of the vast majority of other industries within the state.

(5)  The high cost of workers’ compensation insurance in Vermont is in part caused by workers’ compensation fraud in the industry.

(6)  To help maintain the health and viability of the forestry and forest products industries and ensure their continued contribution to the state, the general assembly should work to lower workers’ compensation rates for the forestry and forest products industries.

Sec. 2.  13 V.S.A. § 2024 is amended to read:

§ 2024.  WORKERS’ COMPENSATION FRAUD

Any person, including an employee, employer, medical case manager, health care provider, vocational rehabilitation provider, or workers’ compensation insurance carrier who, knowingly and with intent to defraud, makes a false statement or representation for the purpose of obtaining, affecting, or denying any benefit or payment under the provisions of chapter 9 of Title 21, either for her or himself or herself or for any other person, shall forfeit all benefits or payments obtained as a result of the false statement or representation and all or a portion of any right to compensation under the provisions of chapter 9 of Title 21 as determined by the commissioner and:

(1)  For fraud involving $10,000.00 or more, be fined not more than $100,000.00 or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

(2)  For fraud involving less than $10,000.00 but more than $900.00, be fined not more than $10,000.00 $50,000.00 or imprisoned not more than two three years, or both.

(3)  For fraud involving $900.00 or less, be fined not more than $10,000.00 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

Sec. 3.  DEPARTMENT OF LABOR STUDY OF SAFETY STANDARDS

             FOR FORESTRY AND FOREST PRODUCTS INDUSTRIES

(a)  The commissioner of labor, in consultation with the commissioner of forests, parks and recreation shall convene a working group to develop safety standards for the forestry and forest products industry that will help reduce injury rates and workers’ compensation insurance rates for the industries.  In developing the safety standards, the commissioner shall use the safety standards adopted in other states, including Maine, as a guide.  On or before January 15, 2009, the commissioner of labor shall report to the house and senate committees on commerce and the house and senate committees on natural resources and energy with the results of the working group.  The report shall include:

(1)  Proposed safety standards for the forestry and forest products industries;

(2)  A recommended methodology for implementing the proposed safety standards in the forestry and forest products industries;

(3)  An estimate of the cost to implement the proposed safety standards, including the cost to the department of labor, the department of forests, parks and recreation, insurance providers, and members of the forestry and forest products industries; 

(4)  A proposed schedule for implementing the proposed safety standards.

(b)  The working group shall consist of:

(1)  The commissioner of labor or his or her designee;

(2)  The commissioner of forests, parks and recreation or his or her designee;

(3)  One member of the senate, appointed by the senate pro tempore;

(4)  One member of the house of representatives, appointed by the speaker of the house;

(5)  Three members of the forestry and forest products industries appointed by the governor; and

(6)  Two members of the insurance industry, appointed by the governor.

(c)  The working group may elect a chair and vice chair and may hold public hearings.  The department of labor and the department of forests, parks and recreation shall provide support for the working group.

(d)  All members of the committee shall serve on the committee for the duration of the working group unless circumstances dictate a permanent replacement.  Vacancies shall be appointed in the same manner as an original appointment.

(e)  Legislative members of the working group are entitled to per diem payment and reimbursement for expenses pursuant to 2 V.S.A. § 406.

Sec. 4.  DEPARTMENT OF LABOR FRAUD INVESTIGATION STAFF

In addition to any other funds appropriated to the department of labor in fiscal year 2009, there is appropriated from the general fund to the department $70,000.00 in fiscal year 2009 for the purpose of hiring one full-time employee to investigate fraudulent workers’ compensation claims in the state.



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us