ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO/AP) — The Minnesota Senate has passed legislation to force drug companies to help pay for the costs of responding to the opioid epidemic.
Senators approved the bill on a 59-6 vote Monday. It contains some differences compared with an opioid bill that passed the House 94-34 two weeks ago, so the legislation now goes to a House-Senate conference committee that will craft a compromise. It appears almost certain that some version will become law.
The bill is only the second in the nation that would require opioid companies to foot part of the bill for the ongoing crisis that has hit every part of the country. New York also passed a similar bill, though that has run into court challenges.
Families of victims applauded in the Senate gallery as the bill passed Monday. The Senate author, Republican Julie Rosen, lead the impassioned call for action.
“We are doing what we possibly can in this state. Yes, it is aggressive, but I honestly every single day I woke up and said this is the right thing to do,” Rosen said.
She added that her inspiration was Sen. Chris Eaton, whose daughter Ariel died of an overdose in 2007. Today would’ve been her 35th birthday.
“The heartbreak is indescribable. Having been there myself, I can tell you after 12 years it is still there,” Eaton said.
Eaton and Rosen were greeted with cheers afterword by other victims’ families — including Charles “Chazz” Smith, a cousin of superstar Prince, who died of an overdose nearly three years ago at his Paisley Park estate.
“There is a lot of work to be done, but thank God to everybody that has come out and has lost someone close to them. And I can totally understand that they are so brave to come out here and keep pushing this,” Smith said.
Both versions would sharply raise the annual registration fees for pharmaceutical manufacturers and drug wholesalers that sell or distribute opioids in Minnesota. The money would go into a fund that would support a wide range of prevention, education, intervention, treatment and recovery strategies. The biggest difference is that under the Senate version, high fees would sunset if the state reaches big settlements in opioid lawsuits against drug companies.
Walz has said he is supportive of this legislation and is expected to sign an opioid stewardship measure if it reaches his desk.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)