CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A House of Delegates committee advanced legislation Thursday that will allow whistleblowers to sue companies that defraud state government.
The House Judiciary Committee voted 15-9 to pass a heavily revised version of a bill that would make West Virginia the 30th state with a "false claims act." State lawmakers revised the bill after state business leaders complained about it.
The legislation was modeled after a similar law in Virginia, a state that has recouped tens of millions of dollars under its false claims act.
"This attacks taxpayer fraud," said Delegate Stephen Skinner, D-Jefferson. "This is a fantastic bill ... It allows us to incentivize whistleblowing."
Whistleblowers typically collect about 15 to 20 percent of any settlement or award, while state government programs get the rest.
Under the bill, the Legislature would distribute all proceeds from whistleblower lawsuits to volunteer fire departments, a state in-home elderly care program, and for secondary road repairs.
House Republicans called the legislation a "sue and settle bill" that would prompt frivolous lawsuits.