A bipartisan bill that includes $20 million in new licensing fees on opioid manufacturers and distributors to pay for programs to curb the ongoing addiction epidemic passed the state Senate easily Thursday.
But the bill, which is opposed by the powerful pharmaceutical industry, still faces a tough road in the Republican-controlled House.
“The work’s not done, but we are going to continue. Every day, I wake up so grateful that I don’t have to do a prayer for a lost child,” said Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Vernon Center, in a speech at the end of the debate.
Rosen said she became emotional when she considered the trials of a co-author of the bill, Sen. Chris Eaton, DFL-Brooklyn Center, who lost a daughter to opioid overdose.
“It’s been a long road, and to have it pass so big is just phenomenal,” said Eaton, referring to the final 60-6 vote tally.
A House bill authored by Rep. Dave Baker, R-Willmar, who also lost a child to opioid overdose, is also being considered. It is funded from the state treasury and does not currently include industry money.
The State Capitol is swarming with more than three dozen industry lobbyists working to stop the fee increase.
Lawmakers also face new pressure from Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group founded by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. The group released statements Thursday first urging a “no” vote and then expressing disappointment in the outcome, which also served as a message to House Republicans.
“It’s very troubling to see the Senate go backward and pass a bill that would add significant costs on the backs of Minnesota patients.” said Jason Flohrs, the group’s state director. “Ultimately, this $20 million will come at the direct expense of Minnesota patients and their families.”