- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 27, 2015

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - The New Hampshire Secretary of State’s office plans to continue fighting a proposal in the Senate’s budget that takes away its authority to monitor the state’s public risk pools.

The Senate Finance Committee voted Wednesday to uphold an earlier decision to give oversight authority to the Insurance Department. The change would halt the secretary of state’s ability to monitor the former Local Government Center, a public risk pool it’s been battling with since 2011 over mishandled money. Democratic senators and Secretary of State Bill Gardner asked the committee to reverse course.

“I was not aware of this amendment - no one ever asked me any questions or suggested there were any problems,” Gardner said. “I’m kind of baffled that I’m here because of this.”

The decision isn’t final; Senate President Chuck Morse said he plans to continue exploring it during budget negotiations. Democratic Sen. Lou D’Allesandro said the Insurance Department has expressed concern to him about the switch.

The Local Government Center is now split into two public risk pools - HealthTrust and Property-Liability Trust - which provide health insurance and workers’ compensation insurance, respectively, to municipalities and school districts. The Bureau of Securities Regulation, housed in the secretary of state’s office, first took action against the Local Government Center in 2011.

In 2014, the state Supreme Court ordered the pools to return $33 million in improperly withheld surplus money to its members. It also upheld the bureau’s finding that the Local Government Center was illegally using its health insurance pool to subsidize the workers’ compensation pool.

The Bureau of Securities Regulation has been monitoring both risk pools since to ensure compliance with the court ruling and law. Part of the agreement says Property-Liability Trust cannot take on new members.

D’Allesandro said the state shouldn’t interrupt the ongoing monitoring process now.

“I think if we moved this we would cause disruption to a process that’s already in place,” D’Allesandro said.

Scott Myers, chair of the New Hampshire Municipal Association’s board of directors, testified in support of moving oversight authority to the Insurance Department. He said Property-Liability Trust’s runoff will hurt communities because it will reduce competition in the space for workers’ compensation insurance. He told the committee he believes Property-Liability Trust will continue to operate if oversight authority moves to the Insurance Department.

He also said it makes more sense for the Insurance Department to monitor the public risk pools.

“These are insurance risk pools, they’re not securities,” he said.


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