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LA Politics Weekly | From the Desk of Jeremy Alford

Attorney General Jeff Landry filed a petition Wednesday to intervene in a lawsuit brought by the Louisiana Independent Pharmacies Association against the Edwards Administration.

LIPA wants to cancel a $2 billion contract the Division of Administration approved between the Office of Group Benefits and CaremarkPCS Health to manage prescription drug services for thousands of state employees and retirees.

After hearing complaints about high costs to the state and low reimbursements for pharmacists, members of Joint Budget originally rejected the OGB contract.

Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, however, told lawmakers the Division would move forward with the contract based on a recent court order.

Time is also an issue, Dardenne added, since the current OGB contract for prescription benefits ends Dec. 31.

Now the 19th Judicial District Court is being asked to weigh in on whether the Division requires approval from Joint Budget for these kinds of contracts, as required by law.

That broader question needs to be fully answered, said Appropriations Chair Zee Zeringue. “Sometimes it takes litigation to confirm or clarify an issue,” said Zeringue, “and, unfortunately, it has come to that. Lawmakers obviously believe the Division needs Joint Budget approval.”

According to Landry’s petition with the 19th JDC, the attorney general seems to agree: “An administrative agency of state government cannot dispense with the Legislature’s prerogative with respect to the expenditure of state funds by imperial edict.”

When the Joint Budget Committee meets next on Thursday, members will discuss the formation of a new subcommittee to look at alternative paths forward with the administration, Zeringue said.

“There might be some different ways we can approach this issue,” the chairman said. “That’s part of what we’re going to discuss next week.”

To read a full PDF of this article & view copies of the court filings, please click here

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