The 2019 Minnesota Legislature had much yet undone at session’s end. Let us note with approval something it did accomplish — a belated measure to deal with the opioid epidemic in this state.
A bill that passed overwhelmingly in both chambers raises fees on the makers of prescription painkillers and dedicates the money, estimated at $20 million a year with a 2024 sunset clause, to opioid-related response programs. Gov. Tim Walz signed the bill Wednesday, with a ceremonial signing to come.
As a result of this legislation, treatment centers will be better funded, counties will get more help supporting children pulled from parents with drug issues, medical providers will get more training in proper use of the addictive drugs and law enforcement will have more resources to target illicit traffickers.
Kudos to Sen. Julie Rosen, the Vernon Center Republican who carried the legislation in that chamber. It’s been a multi-year fight with Big Pharma to get this done, and Rosen and others involved in passing the measure view it as only a start. They promise more legislation in future sessions.
One of the few opponents was Rep. Jeremy Munson, R-Lake Crystal, who represents half of Rosen’s Senate district. His argument is that the fees will be passed on to consumers with legitimate need for the painkillers.
Apparently Munson would prefer to continue to starve the response to the deadly epidemic of funds. While Minnesota has not been as hard-hit as some other states by opioid addiction (meth has consistently been a greater problem in the North Star State), it has been a problem, as evidenced by the number of legislators who have lost adult children to opioid-related deaths.
Rosen has been vocal in her scorn for the drugmakers’ consistent refusal to bear any responsibility for their role in creating and fueling the wave of addiction. She is more correct — far more correct — on this issue than is Munson.