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WV’s PEIA in limbo with board spots unfilled


Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — As fall approaches, the Public Employees Insurance Agency Finance Board will again begin the process of coming up with a benefits plan for the next budget year — a plan that likely will require another round of benefits cuts for insurees.

However, at the moment, no one is really sure who is or isn’t on the Finance Board, under a new law that shrinks the board from 10 to eight members, and changes qualifications to serve on the board.

The legislation, passed in April and effective July 1, eliminates the requirement that one member of the board represent organized labor, and bars registered lobbyists from serving on the board – which removes longtime members Elaine Harris, who lobbies for the Communications Workers of America, and Josh Sword, who lobbies in his capacity as president of the state AFL-CIO, from the board.

Sword said he and Harris have been notified by the governor’s office that they will no longer serve on the board.

Meanwhile, Charleston lawyer Troy Giatras’ term on the board expired on June 30, and Gov. Jim Justice appointed him to serve on the state Parkways Authority.

With two previous vacancies on the board, that leaves five board members, including two representing the public-at-large, who may or may not be able to continue to serve under the new law.

The new law (SB221), expands the board’s at-large members from three to four, but sets more specific qualifications for those members: One must have expertise in employee benefits programs, one must have experience in an insurance benefits business, one must be a CPA with experience in employee benefits, and one must be a CPA with experience in health care financial markets.

Current at-large members are James Dailey, a Martinsburg contractor, and Bill Ihlenfeld, a Wheeling lawyer.

Because of uncertainty over membership, the Finance Board canceled its scheduled August meeting and annual board retreat.

Gov. Justice has yet to appoint new members to the board.

“Since the board just met in July, there were no pressing issues that had to be immediately addressed,” Department of Administration spokeswoman Diane Holley Brown said Tuesday.

“It’s my understanding the existing members will stay as members until the new appointments are made,” she added. “I know we’re expecting to get them soon.”

Justice spokesman Butch Antolini did not immediately respond to a request for an update on the status of appointing new members to the board.

Reach Phil Kabler at [email protected], 304-348-1220 or follow @PhilKabler on Twitter.

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