Lawmakers consider penny-a-pill opioid tax

Behind the headlines, the endless statistics and proselytizing by public officials, the opioid crisis is made up of thousands of families with stories that are all too real.

One heartbroken father brought one of those stories to the Minnesota state Capitol Thursday in an attempt to push drug companies to be a part of the solution. 

Rep. Dave Baker, R-Willmar, is the public face of a first-of-its-kind proposal to institute a one-cent tax on every opioid pill sold in the state, pushing the issue into the spotlight after his son, Dan Baker, died of an overdose in 2011. 

The bill is called the "Opioid Family Recovery Act," and, if passed, is forecast to raise more than $20 million for addiction treatment and prevention programs.

"They don't have to raise any prices and they don't have to do any work," Baker said Thursday during a hearing on the bill. "They can hopefully stay out of some courtrooms too."

He's got a high-profile backer in Gov. Mark Dayton, who came out in support of the bill recently. Wednesday's hearing didn't result in a vote, though the issue is scheduled to come up for a vote next week with an amendment.

"It gives [drug companies a legislative offering to say, 'Come and work with us,'" Baker said. "And I would like to have them at the table very, very quickly."