PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A proposal to make the statewide organizations for municipalities and school boards meet annually with a committee of the South Dakota Legislature about their workers’ compensation plans has been shot down.
The board’s action came after presentations from GOAC’s chairman, Representative Randy Gross, R-Elkton, and from executive directors Yvonne Taylor of South Dakota Municipal League and Wade Pogany of Associated School Boards of South Dakota.
Gross said GOAC members looked at an analysis from the state Department of Legislative Audit before adopting a recommendation from Representative Sue Peterson, R-Sioux Falls, that the two organizations should be required to meet with GOAC, similar to the requirement for the South Dakota High School Activities Association.
Taylor said she and Pogany didn’t attend the GOAC meeting and don’t pay attention to the committee because it doesn’t have authority over their private, not-for-profit organizations. She said their organizations brought legislation years ago that requires they provide audits to the Department of Legislative Audit.
Taylor noted they weren’t invited to the GOAC meeting and found it difficult to have their transparency questioned. She said they remain willing to sit down with GOAC. “We’re not afraid of the scrutiny,” she said. She asked that GOAC’s workers’ comp legislation be stopped.
Pogany praised the Department of Legislative Audit for the memorandum on the two pools. He called the proposed legislation that resulted “startling and inappropriate.” He denied anything “nefarious” was happening.
Pogany said actuaries make recommendations to an advisory committee representing the 66 school districts who participate in the schools’ pool. The advisory committee then reports to the organization’s board. “We would love to have a conversation with anybody about that. Very open,” he said.
Senator Jim Stalzer, R-Sioux Falls, asked several questions, including why the municipalities and schools don’t buy commercial workers’-comp coverage. Taylor said the pools began in the 1980s when workers’ comp insurance was difficult to obtain in South Dakota.
Taylor said the municipal pool provides “better and cheaper” coverage for approximately 500 participating entities. Pogany said school districts can choose whether to use the schools pool or a private provider. He said that’s the best transparency there could be.
Stalzer also asked how claims are handled. Taylor said they follow the same laws as private providers. Senator Lee Schoenbeck, R-Watertown, noted the two pools use outside advisors, as do private providers. “The same people do both in some instances,” Schoenbeck said.
Pushing for changes has been Jason Pieper of Watertown. His wife, Michelle, was hurt and nearly died after a kindergarten student in her class rammed a chair into her leg. She later settled for $500,000 from the school-boards pool.
Peiper convinced the state’s Workers’ Compensation Council to recommend that an injured employee be included in all written and oral communications between a medical services provider and any medical provider.
That proposal would need adoption by the Legislature to take effect.