Introducing SB 254 with a reference to Bill Murray's Groundhog Day, Senator Keane was the only witness testifying in support of SB 254. That was enough as the bill was passed by a 6-4 count and referred to the Finance and Claims committee where it also found favorable treatment, 11-8. It was scheduled for 2nd reading on the Senate floor today.
During his presentation Keane emphasized that the money only comes from "dividends" and not policy premium. Citing what he described as a $158 million increase in assets and equity over the past two years, he also reminded the committee that the workers' compensation system belongs to the legislature and the legislature has the right to change "our" system.
Keane was the only proponent testifying. In follow up, Keane also noted that the bill precludes MSF from raising premiums to fund the bill's costs.
Multiple opponents testified against SB 254 including Nancy Butler of Montana State Fund, Glenn Oppel (Montana Chamber of Commerce), Riley Johnson (National Federation of Independent Business), Bob Biskupiak (Independent Insurance Agents of Montana), John Hansen (Montana Logging Association), Bob Worthington (Montana Self Insurers Association) and Jack Walsh (Montana Building Industry Association.
Butler testifed regarding how the "surplus" had "done its job" over the years addressing adverse development such as retroactive court decisions and had allowed MSF to maintain stable rates during that time. She compared MSF's current practices to the other "competitive" state funds and testified that MSF is within the best practices in the national state fund community.
Currently, the "old fund" has about 750 open claims.