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Senate Democrats seek more oversight for insurance rebates

OLYMPIA – Senate Democrats on Monday proposed increasing oversight of a business insurance rebate program, citing rebate overpayments of at least $150 million.

Last week, the state Department of Labor and Industries announced that, since 1994, it made the excess payments to business groups that purchase insurance from the department. Labor and Industries blamed an agency computer glitch.

“This error, dating back to 1994, and the magnitude of its consequences highlights the fact that the program has been operating without proper transparency and oversight, nor any disclosure requirements,” said Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, the bill sponsor.

But Republicans say the Democrats may have another agenda.

Sen. Janea Holmquist, R-Moses Lake, said that the measure is “an attempt to restrict funding to political campaigns and issues with which the sponsors of the bill do not agree.”

“Democrats in the Legislature, and their allies in liberal advocacy groups, want to silence the free speech of their political opposition,” Holmquist said in a statement.

The Democrats’ plan would require business groups to disburse most refund money to the pool of businesses that paid for the insurance within 90 days of receiving a rebate. Business groups could keep some of the money for administrative costs, but the proposal would also require those groups to show those they insure, as well as L and I, how the rebate money was spent.