Legislative Update, Week 18, 64th Session, Senator Murphy
Remember all the press and talk of a 75 day session? This is day 78. There is no partisan split in the Senate at this time as the only bill holding us up for the last couple of days is one that many say should never have been introduced in the first place. It was a delayed bill allowed by the Delayed Bills committee on March 17. It addresses the Public Employees Retirement System choosing Sanford as their health insurance provider. For decades with only Blue Cross Blue Shield providing their insurance and often wishing there was some competition, we finally got it and now fear has set in. What if it is not the same? What about Sanford being both a provider of services as well as an insurer? And so on. The bill is controversial because it seeks to alter a signed contract after bidding procedures were properly followed. Now, that original delayed bill has been amended into the PERS budget bill itself. Many profess that the Republicans are the party of capitalism and business, but this meddling with a legal and binding contract belies that standing. The bill by House Republicans was not appreciated by either party in the Senate as it smacked of illegal meddling after the fact. It was useful during March and April as it may have hastened the arrival of Essentia into the provider network and all of us covered by the PERS system (legislators included) are understandably questioning how things will be different. Obviously, even when covered year after year by BCBS policies, some things change when the contract is renewed, but the PERS board has a lot of smart folks on it that vetted and reviewed the bids and chose the winner.
In the last two sessions, grandstanding at the last minute has not only heedlessly delayed our session ending and driven up the monetary and human costs, but also disrespected the process and the public servants involved. Why? The Senate Majority Leader just told me that he and the House Majority Leader have agreed to disagree and it looks like the bill which funds PERS will die. This means that agency will go unfunded after July 1. The two systems involved are RIO (Retirement Investment Office) with 19 employees and PERS with 33 people working for them. The only way I see out of this right now is for us to adjourn, let people cool off and come back to deal with it in a special session. I cannot say I am especially enjoying this ND version of the United States Congress – we should be better than that.