Thursday, Oct. 9, 2008 | 2 a.m.
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Nevada Democrats opened a new line of attack Wednesday on state Sen. Bob Beers, vowing to try to repeal legislation quietly approved in 2007 that benefited Beers’ former employer.
Democrats are citing a story in Sunday’s Las Vegas Sun reporting that Beers said he introduced a Republican ally, state Sen. Randolph Townsend, to an executive of the former employer, Payroll Solutions. Townsend then introduced an amendment favorable to the company, adding it to an insurance bill at the close of the 2007 legislative session.
Beers had resigned as vice president of sales of Payroll Solutions before the legislative session, saying he wanted to avoid any conflict between his elected office and the company’s legislative agenda.
The stakes in Beers’ race are high. Republicans control the Senate by one vote. Beers is being challenged by marketing executive Allison Copening. If she wins, control of the Senate will switch from the Republicans to the Democrats.
“After discovering Bob Beers’ backroom fix for his former employer, protecting the integrity of the entire state legislature requires us to repeal this amendment,” Senate Minority Leader Steven Horsford said in a statement Wednesday. Horsford had voted in favor of the law.
Beers responded: “I’m appalled that for transparent political purposes, Sen. Horsford would risk taking away low-cost, high-quality health insurance for a couple thousand Las Vegans.”
He also said he had merely taken a worthy idea to a colleague and would do it again. “If any constituent of mine comes to me with an idea of merit, I will always do my best to put them in touch with the right legislator and committee.”
Beers said he’d talked to Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, who “listened to the facts, and she offered her opinion that it was not irregular.”
At the time of the amendment, Payroll Solutions faced a state Insurance Division fine of $1 million plus back taxes in 2006 for running a health plan without a license. Payroll Solutions performs payroll, benefits administration and other services for companies.
Payroll Solutions maintains it operates a plan that is regulated by the federal government, not the state.
The matter is being fought in state and federal courts.
At the close of the 2007 legislative session, Townsend offered the amendment to a workers’ compensation insurance bill. The amendment explicitly made companies such as Payroll Solutions subject to federal rather than state regulation. There was no public hearing or testimony on the amendment before it won approval.
The state has more stringent regulations on insurers, requiring them to cover certain procedures such as cancer screenings and contribute to a fund that would pay claims if they went broke.
Internal memos obtained by the Sun for its story showed government lawyers and regulators are concerned the amendment opened up a new class of health insurers that will operate outside the watchful eyes of the state.