Thanksgiving is just a couple of weeks away and bright Christmas trinkets already are flooding store shelves. The year 2013 still has several weeks left before the 2014 state legislative sessions start opening up.
But despite the oncoming holiday season, legislative committees already are preparing priority bills for 2014. Initial horse trading and bargaining on provisions … committee agenda-building … hearings … and other elements already are shaping what 2014 will look like.
Fraud fighters should be part the action.
Watching how laws are made is often compared to making sausage. We may like the outcome, but the complex insider ball that creates bills can be less than appetizing. We are now making legislative sausage for anti-fraud bills in several states.
The Florida legislature is scheduled to open its 2014 session next March. Yet influential committees already are meeting to fashion their agendas. There’s a growing hue and cry, for instance, about replacing Florida’s troubled no-fault system. The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee last week held a panel session on the topic. Experts reviewed a discussion draft of a bill replacing no-fault with a fault-based system requiring bodily-injury coverage.
The meeting was intended to start a dialogue over keeping or yanking no-fault, a key committee staffer told me. The discussion proposal was simply an informal tool get the discussions going. It isn’t necessarily the outline of a bill that will be pushed next year.
The anti-fraud provisions of Florida’s no-fault system would remain intact even if no-fault is repealed, the staff member added. Stronger anti-fraud provisions, however, may be needed if no-fault is repealed. A fault-based system might generate new scams that require tougher anti-fraud laws.
Minnesota, as I earlier wrote, has a legislative working group looking at the state’s insurance-fraud laws. The goal is to offer legislation toughening up the current laws in 2014. The working group plans to have bills ready for the February opening of the 2014 session.
Airbags could loom large next year as well. The Coalition has long studied the issue. The most recent boost came when a Chinese national was handed 37 months in federal prison for trying to flood the U.S. market with cheap knockoff bags cleverly counterfeiting models by major U.S. carmakers.
Connecticut and New York already have criminalized the manufacturing and knowing installation of phony airbags. The Ohio legislature is verging on passing a similar measure in the waning weeks of this session.
A Maryland legislative committee also held a hearing this week on counterfeit airbags. The committee is considering pushing a bill next year that ran out of steam in the 2013 session.
The lesson: Use the months before your statehouse opens to find allies in the legislature, work with them to identify needed anti-fraud fixes, and have fraud bills ready when the gong chimes in early 2014.
Committees are crafting their 2014 agendas. They’re looking for workable ideas such as anti-fraud bills that protect consumers. Combating this crime should be a sought-after part of committee agendas. Meet and educate committees about the needed laws. Recruit a lawmaker ally who’ll help you steer the bill through the statehouse maze.
The Coalition is ready for 2014. Will fraud fighters be ready in their states? The Coalition stands ready to assist your jumpstart.
About the author: Howard Goldblatt is director of government affairs for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud.