Legislative oversight panel has lost its teeth, former lawmaker Coleman says

02/16/2011 09:31 PM

Former state Rep. Jack Coleman said the state legislature’s investigative committee has moved away from its aggressive watchdog role, leaving lawmakers in the dark about what’s really going on with some state or contractors.

For instance, he said that panel should have been the one to keep watch over the contract and spending of administrators at Passport — the agency that contracts with the state to provide Medicaid services to the poor and disabled in the Louisville metro area.

“The responsibility of how the services are meted out to the recipients — or the people — really comes back to the legislature,” said Coleman, a Burgin Democrat.

It was state Auditor Crit Luallen whose office uncovered “excessive spending” by executives on travel and lobbyists.

The legislature’s Program Review and Investigations Committee is made up of senators and representatives. In the 1990s it made headlines for exposing financial problems in the state Medicaid program and prompting reforms of the Kentucky Association of Counties’ insurance operations.

Coleman also was involved in the 1998 debate over creating the prescription drug tracking system called KASPER. He said the legislature should approve a bill that would require prescriptions for cold and allergy medicines with pseudoephedrine in it to better regulate the substance that is a key ingredient in meth.

Coleman sponsored the first legislation regulating payday lenders in 1998 — at a time when current Gov. Steve Beshear was serving as a lobbyist and representative of that industry.

On Wednesday, legislation regarding the payday lenders failed by a 10-13 vote in the House Banking and Insurance Committee Wednesday morning. That legislation, pushed by Democratic Rep. Darryl Owens of Louisville, would have capped that annual percentage rate on such loans at 36%.

- Ryan Alessi


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