Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh addressed MACo’s Legislative Committee on March 11, commenting on a variety of topics including the state’s heroin epidemic, proposed false claims legislation, and the Conowingo Dam. Formerly the long-serving chair of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, Frosh stated that he hoped to continue to have good working relationship with both the counties and MACo.
Budget Cuts To the Attorney General’s Office
Citing a recent 2% budget cut to his office for FY 2015 and an additional cut for FY 2016, Frosh joked that his office “is going to have to do less with less.” He noted the challenges of absorbing such cuts in a largely staff-driven agency, especially the late-in-the-fiscal-year 2% cut, but stressed his commitment to continuing to provide the best legal representation possible.
Maryland False Claims Act Legislation
Frosh has sponsored legislation (HB 405/SB 374) that would create a Maryland False Claims Act, similar to the federal False Claims Act and he thanked MACo for supporting his efforts. He noted that the federal act has been very successful in recouping losses due to fraudulent claims for benefits or payment of services. He explained that 29 states have adopted similar acts. Nine states, including Maryland, only have a false claims act for medical fraud. Maryland’s medical fraud act, which was passed in 2010, recovered $40 million for the State in FY 2014. Frosh also stressed that the there has been bipartisan support for the legislation in other states.
The Heroin Epidemic
Frosh announced that the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has now joined a multi-state heroin task force that includes states from Maine to Maryland. He noted that heroin in deaths in Maryland have doubled and emergency room visits for overdoses have tripled since 2010. OAG wants to interrupt the heroin flow to drive up its price, which is now only $460/gram. In contrast, Frosh noted that heroin cost $3200/gram in 1982. He acknowledged that county jails have been flooded with substance abusers and the mentally ill.
Responding to questions about addressing the sediment and nutrient pollution generated by the Conowingo Dam, Frosh responded that “the [Chesapeake] Bay is dying the death of a 1,000 cuts and the Conowingo is a big cut.” He stated that the Conowingo problem has to be addressed but also noted other water pollution reduction efforts were also needed. Several rural Legislative Committee members thanked the Attorney General for his position.