House Bill 4001 was introduced on the first day of the session as the False Claims Act. However, opponents of the bill referred to it as the “sue-and-settle” bill.
The bill offers monetary compensation to whistleblowers who bring forward information regarding fraudulent claims made against the government. That is, if the case is successful.
Supporters of the bill claimed it would provide taxpayers protection from fraud while opponents claimed that it would only provide lawyers with plaintiffs.
The bill was approved by the Judiciary Committee twice as the bill was sent back after concerns from the business community arose.
On the House floor, debate began with delegates speaking both for and against the bill.
Delegate Paul Espinosa opposed the bill despite the changes because of the problems he felt it would cause.
“It’s still the same proposal that would make it more difficult if not impossible for small companies to do business in the state,” Espinosa said. “It’s still the same proposal that allows an accuser to peruse a newly created cause of action without first exhausting administrative remedies.”
Delegate Manchin supported the bill because they felt the success in other states could be translated to West Virginia.
“We have not had one of these states repeal their bill,” Manchin said. “If it were costing them more money than they are taking in, wouldn’t somebody have repealed it by now? Doesn’t that tell us its working?”
In the end, the majority determined the risks of the bill outweighed the reward as the bill was rejected by a vote of 42-55.