‘We did it:' Minnesota lawmakers agree to slap drug companies over opioid crisis

Minnesota lawmakers have reached a deal to address the opioid epidemic by slapping fees on drug companies to pay for treatment and prevention efforts.

On a 109-25 vote, the House passed the opioid epidemic bill slapping fees on drug companies to pay for addiction treatment and prevention. The Minnesota Senate passed it 60-3, ending months of struggle over who should pay for the opioid epidemic. The bill now heads to the governor's desk, where it will likely be signed.

Drug companies that distribute high numbers of opioids in Minnesota will face a yearly $305,000 fee to do business here. That will raise an estimated $20 million per year to fund treatment and prevention of opioid addiction.

The fees will continue until 2024, ensuring five years of the increased fee. At that point, if Minnesota has collected at least $250 million from the new fees or legal settlements with drug companies in the state’s various opioid-related lawsuits, the fees would be cut to $5,000 a year per company.

The opioid fees have been a top priority for many lawmakers, and the issue has been personal.

Republican state Rep. Dave Baker and Democratic state Sen. Chris Eaton both lost children in the opioid crisis.

“Chris, we did it,” Baker said during an impassioned speech in the committee Monday. “Gov. Walz, get ready. There’s a bill coming your way. And I could not be more proud of the team that put this together.”

To many observers, the deal appeared to be in doubt last week. But state Sen. Julie Rosen, the Republican who shepherded the bill through the Senate, said it was simply a matter of timing because of negotiations over the state budget.

To be sure, there were major disagreements between the House and Senate over the fee structure. The Senate initially wanted to roll back the fees if Minnesota got a much smaller legal settlement, while the House wanted no rollback.

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