- Associated Press - Friday, May 22, 2015

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - The Secretary of State’s office could lose its ability to oversee a public risk pool it’s had issues with for years, if a last-minute amendment to the Senate budget remains in place.

The Senate Finance Committee voted unanimously Thursday to transfer enforcement authority over public risk pools to the insurance department. That would mean the secretary of state’s office would lose its ability to monitor the former Local Government Center - an entity it’s been battling with since 2011 over the mishandling of money.

The center is now two entities: HealthTrust, which provides health insurance for municipalities and school districts; and Property-Liability Trust, which covers workers’ compensation.

Secretary of State Bill Gardner said his office wasn’t made aware of the amendment before its passage. He said authority over the risk pools should remain with the secretary of state’s office because of the many years of experience the office has with the operations.

The secretary of state’s office was given the authority to enforce laws affecting public risk pools in 2010. Before that, no specific agency was named to enforce the rules.

The battle over mismanaged money made it all the way to the state Supreme Court. In 2014, the court ruled the entities were illegally using money from the health insurance pool to subsidize the workers’ compensation pool and improperly withholding money from its members.

Since the ruling, HealthTrust and Property-Liability Trust have returned tens of millions of dollars to their members. The Bureau of Securities Regulation, housed within the Secretary of State’s office, also continues to monitor them.

Through an agreement signed last year, Property-Liability Trust is winding down its operations and neither entity can accept new workers’ compensation clients.

Although the amendment passed the committee, senators could reverse course next week.

Democratic Sen. Lou D’Allesandro plans to ask for another discussion. Republican Sen. Jeanie Forrester, who introduced the amendment, did not return calls for comment Friday.

Peter Bragdon, the executive director of HealthTrust, said he thinks the insurance department should have authority over public risk pools because the department has more experience with the insurance business.

Bragdon joined the Local Government Center in 2013, when he was serving as president of the state Senate. He resigned the presidency under pressure and did not seek re-election in 2014. He registered as a lobbyist Friday so he can urge lawmakers to support the amendment.

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