1997 Regular Session
To: Labor; Insurance
By: Senator(s) Kirby, Farris
Senate Bill 2874
AN ACT TO CREATE A WORKERS' COMPENSATION FRAUD BUREAU WITHIN THE OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL; TO AUTHORIZE ASSESSMENTS ON WORKERS' COMPENSATION CARRIERS TO FUND THE BUREAU; TO CREATE A SPECIAL FUND FOR SUCH ASSESSMENTS; TO PROVIDE FOR THE ADMINISTRATION OF SUCH FUND; TO AMEND SECTION 27-104-13, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, IN CONFORMITY THERETO; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. (1) There is created within the Office of the Attorney General a Workers' Compensation Fraud Bureau. The duty of the bureau is to investigate and prosecute claims of workers' compensation fraud. The Attorney General is hereby authorized and empowered to employ the necessary personnel to carry out the provisions of this section.
(2) To fund the Workers' Compensation Fraud Bureau, the Workers' Compensation Commission shall annually assess each workers' compensation provider an amount equal to one-fourth of one percent (1/4 of 1%) of the coverage written by the provider within the state to defray the cost of the Workers' Compensation Fraud Bureau. The term "workers' compensation provider" includes workers' compensation insurance carriers, workers' compensation self-insurers and workers' compensation self-insured groups. All such assessments shall be deposited solely into a special fund of the Office of the Attorney General which is created in the State Treasury and designated as the "Workers' Compensation Fraud Fund." This fund shall be used solely to defray the expenses of the Workers' Compensation Fraud Bureau. The fund shall be a nonlapsing, revolving special trust fund and interest earned on the principal shall be credited to the fund. Expenditures from the fund shall be made upon requisition by the Attorney General.
(3) If any workers' compensation provider, employee of the Workers' Compensation Commission or other person has a belief that a false or misleading statement or representation or other fraud has been made in connection with or relating to a workers' compensation claim as described in Section 71-3-69, Mississippi Code of 1972, such person or entity is required to report such belief to the Workers' Compensation Fraud Bureau; to furnish any information which may be pertinent; and to cooperate in an investigation conducted by the bureau. Investigators for the Workers' Compensation Fraud Bureau are authorized law enforcement officers and they are authorized to investigate and exercise such powers as are granted to other authorized law enforcement officers. Any person or entity that furnishes information as required by this subsection (3) shall be immune from liability for damages in a civil action for furnishing such information.
(4) All prosecutions for felony violations of Section 71-3-69, Mississippi Code of 1972, shall be instituted by the Attorney General, his designee or the district attorney of the district in which the violation occurred or his designee and shall be conducted in the name of the people of the State of Mississippi. In the prosecution of any criminal proceeding under Section 71-3-69, Mississippi Code of 1972, by the Attorney General, or his designee, and in any proceeding before a grand jury in connection therewith, the Attorney General or his designee shall exercise all the powers and perform all the duties which the district attorney would otherwise be authorized or required to exercise or perform. The Attorney General, or his designee, shall have the authority to issue and serve subpoenas in the investigation of any matter which may violate Section 71-3-69, Mississippi Code of 1972.
(5) The Attorney General, or his designee, shall notify the Workers' Compensation Commission when the fraud bureau opens an investigative file which may lead to a criminal prosecution. Such notification shall be privileged and shall not be subject to release to any third party.
(6) If any provision of this section is held invalid, the invalidity does not affect other provisions of the section that can be given effect without the invalid provision and to this end the provisions of this section are severable.
SECTION 2 Section 27-104-13, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
27-104-13. The Executive Director of the Department of Finance and Administration shall have the right to disapprove or reduce and revise such estimates of general funds and state-source special funds for any general fund or special fund agency, and for the "administration and other expenses" budget of the Department of Transportation, in an amount not to exceed five percent (5%) if he finds that funds will not be available within the period for which the budget is drawn, or if he finds that the requested expenditures, or any part thereof, are not authorized by law, and such action shall be reported to the Legislative Budget Office. The Executive Director of the Department of Finance and Administration may, upon his determination of need based upon a finding that funds will not be available within the period for which the budget is drawn, transfer funds as provided in Section 27-103-203, from the Working Cash-Stabilization Reserve Fund to the General Fund to supplement the general fund revenue. In the event that the estimates of general funds and state-source special funds of all general fund and special fund agencies, and of the "administration and other expenses" budget of the Department of Transportation, have been reduced by five percent (5%), additional reductions may be made but shall consist of a uniform percentage reduction of general funds and state-source special funds to all general fund and special fund agencies, and to the "administration and other expenses" budget of the Department of Transportation. Any state-source special funds reduced under the provisions of this section shall be transferred to the State General Fund upon requisitions for warrants signed by the respective agency head and said transfer shall be made within a reasonable period to be determined by the Executive Director of the Department of Finance and Administration.
For the purpose of this section, "state-source special funds" shall be construed to mean any special funds in any agency derived from any source, but shall not include the following special funds: special funds derived from federal sources, from local or regional political subdivisions, or from donations; special funds held in a fiduciary capacity for the benefit of specific persons or classes of persons; self-generated special funds of the state institutions of higher learning or the state junior colleges; special funds of Mississippi Industries for the Blind, the State Port at Gulfport, Yellow Creek Inland Port, Pat Harrison Waterway District, Pearl River Basin Development District, Pearl River Valley Water Management District, Tombigbee River Valley Water Management District, Yellow Creek Watershed Authority, or Coast Coliseum Commission; special funds of the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks derived from the issuance of hunting or fishing licenses; special funds of the Attorney General's office derived from assessments on workers' compensation carriers; and special funds generated by agencies whose primary function includes the establishment of standards and the issuance of licenses for the practice of a profession within the State of Mississippi.
SECTION 3. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 1997.