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Published: Wednesday, 5/23/2007

Ohio Senate fine-tunes governor's BWC restructure plan


COLUMBUS - The Ohio Senate yesterday largely endorsed Gov. Ted Strickland's overhaul of the management structure of the troubled Bureau of Workers' Compensation.

The bill, which now returns to the House for consideration of Senate changes, would scuttle the current oversight commission at the nation's largest state-run insurance fund for injured workers and replace it with a much stronger, 11-member board of directors at the expense of the bureau's administrator.

The current commission has been accused of being too removed from the daily operations of the bureau at a time when it was investing $50 million in rare-coin funds operated by now-convicted, former Toledo-area coin dealer Tom Noe and losing $215 million in a risky off-shore hedge fund.

The Senate also legally locked in place Mr. Strickland's promise to hire a chief operating officer with at least five years' experience, partly a response to criticism that the governor's choice as the new administrator, Toledo native Marsha Ryan, has little direct experience in the insurance industry.

The bill also supplements the governor's proposal with a separate, 11-member legislative panel to watch over those watching over the bureau. The Senate tinkered slightly with the makeup of that panel from what the House proposed to add an additional representative for smaller employers and injured workers.

The bill would greatly increase the compensation for members of the BWC board of directors to as much as $60,000 a year, depending on how many regular and committee meetings they attend.

"If you look at other major corporate boards that have taken on this kind of responsibility, this is not out of line," said Sen. Steve Stivers (R., Upper Arlington).

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