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Legislature: Pass opioid safety legislation

Minnesota legislators appear willing to take another swing at serving opioid abuse victims and holding pharmaceutical companies accountable. We hope they hit a home run.

This new attempt is likely only possible because the DFL now has control of the Minnesota House. Last year GOP Speaker Kurt Daudt simply wouldn’t accept legislation even from his own party that would impose fees on pharmaceutical makers to fund an opioid addiction program.

Daudt’s reticence is worth expanding upon to highlight just how critical this legislation was and the damage the speaker’s obstruction did. GOP Rep. Dave Baker, R-Willmar, sponsored the legislation in the House last year. His son died of an opioid overdose in 2011.

GOP Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Vernon Center, developed a bipartisan bill in the Senate. The plan initially called for charging pharmaceutical companies a penny a pill. When that idea was thwarted by the pharmaceutical lobby, the plan was changed to a fee on pharmaceutical companies. It passed 60-6 in the Senate and would have raised $20 million, compared to the current fee per company of just $235.

But Daudt refused to give the bill even a hearing in the House and it died.

Daudt reasoned later that it looked like a tax on pharmaceutical companies and he didn’t want to tax any business in an “election year.” That apparently didn’t help the GOP House in November, as it lost 18 seats.

House DFLers are expected to resurrect the plan and feel confident they will have the votes with Daudt and his caucus out of power.

But Rosen is now suggesting that because Gov.-elect Tim Walz has said he favors eventually legalizing recreational marijuana there would be some kind of disconnect. Using Walz’s support for recreational marijuana to object to an opioid bill would be off-base in our view.

There is an opioid crisis in Minnesota, as in many other states. A bipartisan group of legislators saw that last year. It’s time to act swiftly on that plan this year.

— Free Press of Mankato

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