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Respect for State Authority and Expertise in WOTUS Review

Rutledge: EPA Should Ensure Respect for State Authority and Expertise in WOTUS Review

Tue, Jun 20, 2017

Final definition should be consistent with intent of Clean Water Act

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge urged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to preserve the role of the states in protecting the nation’s waters as part of the agency’s ongoing review of its Waters of the United States rule as ordered by President Donald J. Trump in February.

The 20-state bipartisan comment letter filed Monday outlined regulatory overreach in the existing rule and offered suggestions to better respect the authority of states moving forward.

“Properly defining Waters of the United States must be done in a way that respects the intent of Congress under the Clean Water Act,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “In its current, overly broad form, the Waters of the United States rule places the burden on our farmers and ranchers and ignores the traditional role of the states to protect its water.”

The letter suggests that the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers revise the definition of “Waters of the United States” in a manner that preserves the states’ role in protecting water resources, especially those within the border of the individual states. The attorneys general also suggest any final definition should adopt a framework consistent with U.S. Supreme Court precedent that includes that federal agencies can only assert authority over permanent, standing or continuously flowing bodies of water forming geographic features that are described in ordinary parlance as streams, rivers, oceans and lakes. The letter expresses that rather than claiming jurisdiction over vast amounts of water and land, the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers should consider the active role each state already plays in safeguarding its waterways.

Rutledge was part of the lawsuit that resulted in a nationwide injunction, blocking enforcement of the current rule, which proved crucial in providing time for the new administration to conduct this review.

The current rule, issued in June 2015, allowed the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to assert federal authority over an untold number of small bodies of water, including roadside ditches, short-lived streams and any other areas where water may flow once every 100 years.

Rutledge is joined by the attorneys general of Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

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Rutledge Fights to Protect Broadband Consumer Protections

Rutledge Fights to Protect Broadband Consumer Protections

Mon, Jun 19, 2017

Petition to FCC from industry intended to strip attorneys general authority

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has joined a bipartisan coalition of 35 attorneys general in opposing a cable telecommunications industry petition to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) intended to stop states from enforcing laws intended to prevent false advertising related to internet speeds.

In a comment submitted to the FCC on Friday, the attorneys general underscored the long-standing critical role they have played in protecting broadband consumers. As the comment letter points out, the industry is seeking a ruling that exceeds the authority of the FCC, is procedurally improper and would upend the longstanding dual federal-state regulation of deceptive practices in the telecommunications industry. Rutledge and her colleagues believe this would leave consumers across the country without the basic state protections from unfair and deceptive business practices that help ensure they are receiving the internet speeds for which they are paying.

“Arkansans deserve complete honesty when it comes to any advertisement for goods and services,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “The need for faster internet speeds and increased access to broadband is something I hear routinely when I travel our State, and my ability to protect Arkansans from misleading providers is something that must be protected.”

The industry’s petition was submitted on May 15 by two trade associations representing fixed and wireless broadband companies (USTelecom and NCTA – The Internet & Television Association). The petition seeks to enlist the FCC in improperly gutting state and federal requirements that bar deceptive advertising of internet speeds. Specifically, the petition asks the FCC to convert a limited safe harbor from FCC’s own enforcement into blanket federal and state immunity for fixed and wireless broadband companies from liability for false statements contained in advertisements and marketing.

In their comment, the attorneys general detail several improper aspects of the industry petition, including that the FCC lacks the authority to displace longstanding State consumer protection enforcement. “As the chief law enforcement officers of our respective states, we understand the vital importance of protecting consumers against unfair and deceptive business practices — including those of broadband providers. Like others providing goods and services to consumers in our states, providers of broadband internet service must be truthful in their advertisements. Broadband access is an essential aspect of our constituents’ work, life and play. The states’ traditional consumer protection powers must be left undisturbed to protect consumers from false and misleading claims by broadband providers regarding the provision of services that are an essential part of 21st century life throughout the United States,” the attorneys general wrote.

Led by the states of New York and Texas, Rutledge is joined on the letter by her colleagues from Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

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Attorney General’s Office to Host Summer Webcast Series

Attorney General’s Office to Host Summer Webcast Series

Mon, Jun 19, 2017

Rutledge says will offer online trainings on internet safety, dating violence prevention, common scams, ID theft and FOIA

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today opened registration for a Summer Webcast Series of trainings on internet safety, dating violence prevention, common scams, identity theft and the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

“After the enormous success of the Winter Webcast Series, I am excited to offer these beneficial trainings again,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Using web-based technology, my office can reach more Arkansans and offer important materials on internet safety, scams, ID theft, preventing dating violence and navigating the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.”

A FOIA webcast covering public records and meetings will be available from 10 a.m. to noon on Tuesday, June 20.

A training to prevent being a victim of ID theft, which occurs when someone uses your personal information without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes, will be offered from 10 to 11 a.m. on Wednesday, July 12.

From 10 to 11 a.m. on Wednesday, July 19, participants can learn about common scams, such as the Favorite Grandchild Scam, IRS Scam, Credit Call Robocalls, Work-from-Home Scam, Door-to-Door Scam and many more. Scam artists are always finding new ways to trick consumers out of their hard earned money. This webcast will highlight some of the more common scams, offer ways to spot the scam and what to do if you have been scammed.

The internet safety training, or Digital You, will take place from 10 a.m. to noon on Wednesday, Aug. 2. Digital You is a comprehensive, interactive educational program created by AT&T and Common Sense Media to offer tools, tips, apps, guidance and education for people of all ages and levels of online experience to learn more about how to have a safe and secure online experience. Rutledge adopted the curriculum last year.

And on Wednesday, Aug. 9, a Break the Cycle training will be offered from 10 a.m. to noon. Break the Cycle is a leading national nonprofit organization that provides comprehensive dating abuse programs. Participants will learn about dating abuse, methods for intervention and how to implement a Healthy Relationships 101 session. Rutledge partnered with Break the Cycle last year to hold regional trainings across the State.

The online trainings are free and open to the public. Registration for each one can be found at ArkansasAG.gov.

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Rutledge Reaches Settlement with Shire Pharmaceuticals

Rutledge Reaches Settlement with Shire Pharmaceuticals

Wed, Jun 14, 2017

State to receive over $269,000

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has reached a settlement with Shire Pharmaceuticals LLC and other subsidiaries of Shire PLC, resolving allegations that Shire and the company it acquired in 2011, Advanced BioHealing, employed kickbacks and other unlawful methods to promote Dermagraft. A bioengineered human skin substitute, Dermagraft is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of diabetic foot ulcers.

Shire will pay the federal government $350 million, of which $14.5 million will go to the Medicaid program to resolve allegations that Shire’s improper promotion of the drug caused false claims to be submitted to government health care programs. The states will receive $6,104,000, of which Arkansas will receive $269,018.80.

“The alleged actions of Shire were not only unlawful but ethically wrong,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Medications should be prescribed to patients because it is in the interest of their health – not because it leads to more lavish dinners, drinks, medical equipment, travel and many other items for the clinics and staff.”

According to the federal government, this is the largest False Claims Act recovery by the U.S. in a kickback case involving a medical device. This settlement resolves allegations that Dermagraft salespersons unlawfully induced clinics and physicians with dinners, drinks, entertainment and travel, medical equipment and supplies, as well as unwanted payments for purported speaking engagements and bogus case studies, in addition to cash, credits and rebates to induce the use of the drug. The federal Anti-Kickback statute prohibits, among other things, the payment of remuneration to induce the use of medical devices covered by Medicare, Medicaid and other federally funded health care programs.

In addition to kickback allegations, the settlement resolves allegations that Shire and its predecessor unlawfully marketed Dermagraft for uses not approved by the FDA, made false statements to inflate the price of the drug and caused improper coding, verification or certification of Dermagraft claims and related services.

A National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units team participated in the investigation and conducted the negotiations on behalf of the states. The team included representatives of the Florida, Illinois, New York and Ohio Medicaid Fraud Control Units. The investigation was coordinated in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Justice Commercial Litigation Branch and the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the District of Columbia, Middle District of Florida and Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

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Rutledge Successful in Blocking FCC Order and Protecting Local Municipalities

Rutledge Successful in Blocking FCC Order and Protecting Local Municipalities

Tue, Jun 13, 2017

D.C. Circuit strikes down rule that failed to consider important costs

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge was successful today in her effort to block a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) order that would have effectively limited the amount of money that Arkansas and other local units of government could recover from Inmate Calling Systems (ICS).

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in a 2 to 1 decision said that the FCC overstepped its authority when it attempted to place a cap on intrastate phone call rates.

“This order from the FCC was nothing less than a power grab that I am pleased to see much of invalidated,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “The FCC failed to consider numerous issues including costs that would have directly impacted the local budgets of cities and counties across Arkansas.”

The FCC’s order attempted to cap rates and limit fees for ICS while ignoring significant ICS- and security-related costs borne by the states and their need to recoup these costs from ICS providers.

The FCC caps inmate calls at 11 cents per minute for all local and long distance calls from state and federal prisons. In jails, prices will range from 14 cents to 22 cents per minute, depending on the size of the institution. What the FCC had proposed would have amounted to a more than 50 percent decrease from previous limits. Additionally the new rule would have applied to all intrastate calls, not just interstate calls.

In March 2016, Rutledge was granted intervention in the lawsuit that was brought by the State of Oklahoma.

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Rutledge Announces Jonesboro Woman Sentenced for Medicaid Fraud

Rutledge Announces Jonesboro Woman Sentenced for Medicaid Fraud

Tue, Jun 13, 2017

Says, ‘Paula Riggs not only harmed the Medicaid program, but her theft threatens the livelihood of those Arkansans who depend on the program'

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced the conviction of a Craighead County woman for Medicaid fraud. Paula Riggs pleaded guilty in Pulaski County Circuit Court and was sentenced to three years probation. She will pay $200 in restitution to the Arkansas Medicaid Program and a $600 fine and court costs in the criminal case. Riggs also agreed to pay a civil judgment of $36,268.76 for restitution and civil penalties of $16,964.88 resulting from false claims she submitted to the Arkansas Medicaid Program.

“Paula Riggs not only harmed the Medicaid program, but her theft threatens the livelihood of those Arkansans who depend on the program," said Attorney General Rutledge. “The Attorney General’s office is committed to investigating and prosecuting individuals like Paula Riggs who commit Medicaid fraud threatening the system set up to protect those in need.”

Riggs, 49, of Jonesboro pleaded guilty to Medicaid fraud, a Class C felony, for billing the Arkansas Medicaid Program for services not rendered as a speech language pathologist with the Bay School District and billing in excess.

The case was initiated by a referral from the Office of the Medicaid Inspector General and was prosecuted in coordination with the 6th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley.

To report Medicaid fraud or abuse or neglect in residential care facilities, complete the online form at ArkansasAG.gov, call the Attorney General’s Medicaid fraud hotline at (866) 810-0016 or email oag@arkansasag.gov.

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