Pinnacol travel bill could hit the floor today -- and hit Pebble Beach-loving execs in the wallet

House Democratic Leader Sal Pace's proposal to restrict travel at Pinnacol Assurance passed an initial reading yesterday, and could move on to a final House vote as early as today.

And Pinnacol, is unlikely to fight this move.

After all, things could be worse for Pinnacol, which has taken quite a beating in the press and at the State Capitol for its Pebble Beach junket (and CEO Ken Ross's over-the-top response to questioning by 7News' Tony Koveleski): Legislators could be trying to raid its reserves. Again.

That's what the legislature had proposed doing two years ago, when it looked at taking as much as $500 million from the reserves of Pinnacol, a quasi public/private agency that gets state tax breaks in exchange for serving as the provider of last resort for businesses that might otherwise have trouble getting workers' compensation insurance.

According to Pinnacol's annual statement for 2010 filed with the Colorado Division of Insurance, the company has assets of over $2 billion and liabilities of just under $1.3 billion -- leaving it with a big, fat surplus of $732,527,187.

As the Denver Post recently reported, consumer groups are already calling for other Colorado insurers to offer rebates from their cash surpluses. And with the state having to cut $600 million from its budget this legislative session and more cuts coming up in the fall, that pot of cash has to be looking attractive. Which is why Pinnacol will take Pace's punishment -- particularly since three new Pinnacol boardmembers are already keeping a close eye on expenses and potential ethical violations.

"This bill sets much-needed limits for what an agency like Pinnacol, that receives huge tax breaks, incentives and public retirement, can spend when they travel," Pace says. The bill would limit the cost of travel to no more than twice the federal reimbursement amount allowed per day; Pinnacol people taking more pricey trips would have to pay the additional costs.

Including any pink golf balls they might need to play Pebble Beach.

More from our Calhoun: Wake-Up Call archive: "Pinnacol: John Hickenlooper's John Cevette appointment could put a good fox in henhouse."

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