Two days ago the workers compensation industry was all abuzz with the news that they may finally get a piece of the injured worker action from Montana State Fund as the insurer of last resort. Earlier this week bill drafts were floating around the Capitol that either eliminated State Fund completely by the middle of this summer or turned it into a mutual fund by early 2019. Folks lined up quickly with Victory Insurance putting all of its eggs in Senator Moore’s basket on one side and State Fund landing on the soft side to oppose either bill but sort of, kind of, well maybe support a study bill related to becoming a mutual fund. Injured workers just wanted to know who was going to take care of them.
Both bills made their way to a hearing, one right after the other and of course both with all of the same players in the room. Just a shift of positions from one bill to the next. Well, except for Victory Insurance who didn’t pivot from the take over stance. Victory got their time at the podium by filling the room with paid staff and paid lobbyists like Kim Gillan who sat silently and Scott Reichner who couldn’t seem to remember what year he last served in the Legislature. Reichner has always been on the wrong side of the tracks from injured workers. Gillan clearly collected her 30 pieces of silver and held the company banner high.
And despite all of those Victory suits, all of that Victory money and the vast knowledge of two former legislators, Victory’s grab for the State Fund pot of gold has failed. Both bills were tabled after taking the entire morning and confusing, as well as annoying the committee. Any annoyance was more than justified given the timing and the fact that legislators believe they can vacate the building by Good Friday. No time, no energy, no consensus and no path. Lanny Hubbard and the Montana State Fund have dodged a bullet today, make that two bullets. Hubbard has been the target of some powerful legislators like Jim Keane for a while now. Lanny and his board have two years to either prepare to be privatized or dump some baggage and clean up their image. But there’s a lot of ego in that shiny building in down town Helena, so we’ll see if one person goes or 300.
‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’