WISCONSIN – Gov. Tony Evers on Wednesday signed a bill that paves the way for local communities – including Racine and Kenosha counties – to receive funds from lawsuits filed against manufacturers and distributors of opioid drugs that have been linked to widespread addiction problems.
While the settlement amounts are still to be determined, local government officials anticipate that several million dollars will eventually be available for drug abatement and mitigation programs.
The new law, which originated as Assembly Bill 374, now:
- Requires the attorney general to cooperate with local governments that are parties to the opiate litigation, National Prescription Opiate Litigation, Case No. MDL 2804 and any proceeding filed in state circuit court that contains allegations and seeks relief substantially similar to the allegations contained and relief sought in the federal lawsuit, to enter into a joint settlement agreement of the legal or equitable claims of the state and local governments, if a proposed settlement agreement is approved by the Joint Committee on Finance and contains certain provisions regarding the distribution of the settlement.
- Specifies how money from the settlement agreement may be used.
The law also prohibits any local governments in Wisconsin, that weren’t already part of the litigation on June 1, from making a claim for the funds.
The legislation cleared the Assembly, by a 60-38 vote, on June 22 and the Senate, by a 19-11 vote, on June 23.
“I am signing Assembly Bill 374 because it will help bring much-needed funds to communities throughout Wisconsin to address the opioid pandemic through a settlement with opioid manufacturers and distributors. These funds will be used on opioid abatement and mitigation efforts and help ensure that the maximum amount of dollars available from a settlement make it to Wisconsin communities as soon as possible,” Gov. Evers said in a news release.
Noting that he didn’t like all of the bill’s provisions, the governor added: “Despite these serious concerns, I am not willing to risk our ability to maximize the amount of settlement dollars available to Wisconsin by vetoing this bill in its entirety.”
Officials from Racine and Kenosha counties praised the governor’s actions.
“I want to sincerely thank the State Legislature and Governor Evers for approving legislation that paves the way for counties to receive opioid settlement funds, Racine County Executive Jonathan Delagrave, said in a prepared statement. “The opioid epidemic has destroyed families and killed countless people, both in Racine County and across the country. Over the last four years, Racine County has worked tirelessly pursuing nationwide opioid litigation to bring accountability to those responsible and begin the important work of abatement and mitigation plans.
“We have also spent much time in the Capitol and talking with members of both parties about the importance of this legislation. The opioid epidemic knows no party affiliation. I applaud the work across party lines to ensure counties receive our full allocation of resources to help individuals and families — and stop this epidemic once and for all. The public should be heartened that their elected officials can still come together to put people first and get things done, Delagrave stated.
“We don’t know exactly how much we will receive, but it will be a significant sum and will make a tremendous difference in Kenosha County’s fight against opioid addiction and our efforts to promote recovery. We’re looking forward to working with our partners in this battle against this epidemic, including the Kenosha County Opioid Task Force,” said Kenosha County Executive Jim Kreuser. “I thank Gov. Evers for showing leadership and support for the people of Wisconsin, and for providing resources to help us continue our work to turn the corner on this epidemic.”