NEWS: Rivers’ pro-business, pro-taxpayer legislation receives Senate approval

OLYMPIA… Two proposals from Sen. Ann Rivers are among the bills approved by the state Senate as Washington’s annual legislative session reached its halfway mark today.

Senate Bill 5163, which has to do with fraud complaints against Medicaid-reimbursed care providers, won unanimous support Tuesday and has already been referred to the House Civil Rights and Judiciary Committee.

Senate Bill 5069, which would support Washington’s cannabis industry if the product is legalized at the federal level, moved forward from the Senate today with a solid 40-8 vote.

“Medicaid fraud is an unfortunate fact. In 2012, during my first term as a legislator, we opened a new front in the battle against fraud with a law that enables both the attorney general and private citizens to file complaints against providers when fraud is suspected,” said Rivers, R-La Center, who is Republican leader on the Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee.

“A decade later, we know the fraud-complaint law has been tremendously effective. Frivolous complaints have not been a problem, and my bill would update the law to reflect that. It sends a clear message to providers who would consider bilking the system, and taking precious health-care dollars away from patient care: Don’t do it, because we are continuing to empower the citizens of our state to turn you in.”

Rivers’ cannabis legislation builds on the extensive work she did a decade ago to establish policies that fit with the voter-supported legalization of cannabis in 2012. SB 5069 basically authorizes Washington’s governor to enter into agreements with other states regarding commerce in cannabis across state lines.

“The cannabis industry in Washington has steadily grown in importance, in every sense. In the event Congress legalizes cannabis at a federal level, we must have a policy framework in place,” she explained. “Should we see action from the ‘other Washington’ while the Legislature is not in session, the governor would then be able to step in and make sure both Washington’s market and its consumers are protected.

“There’s really nothing unusual about the policy itself, as it could apply to any sector of the economy, but the word ‘cannabis’ still attracts attention.”

Four other Rivers bills were moved forward before Senate-committee deadlines for action on legislation. The full Senate has until March 8 to adopt those measures and keep them in play for the 2023 session.