County leaders praise new law to fight opioid addiction despite opposition

NOW: County leaders praise new law to fight opioid addiction despite opposition

WAUKESHA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Local governments are praising Gov. Tony Evers for signing a bill Democrats opposed that's aimed at fighting opioid addiction.

In Waukesha Tuesday, July 6, Gov. Evers defended signing into law legislation to allow counties to receive settlement money from opioid manufacturers. Evers did have concerns with part of bill that gives Republicans who control the budget committee even more power over lawsuit settlements. However, he said he signed it anyways to help communities combat opioid addiction.

"Our communities often times don't have the resources necessary to provide mitigation and prevention efforts," said Evers during the event at Lutheran Social Services in Waukesha. "It had to be about what way we give money to counties as quickly as possible, that's important, and why I signed this bill."

Republican lawmakers and only one Democrat Senator Lena Taylor of Milwaukee supported the bill.

Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley and Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow praised the governor for putting political differences aside to help communities in need.

"Unfortunately, on the legislative side, Republicans voted for it…but the governor stood strong, and we realized we could get this done together and I really appreciate that," said Farrow.

Many areas of the state have been financially stressed by opioid addiction, especially during the pandemic. Crowley said from 2019 to 2020 Milwaukee County saw a 30% increase in the number of opioid related deaths.

"This is key to unlocking desperately needed funding for local communities all across Wisconsin to address the destruction that has been left by the opioid epidemic," Crowley said.

All Wisconsin counties, except for Polk, joined opioid lawsuits filed years ago targeting opioid manufacturers, distributors and retailers. Once the settlements are reached, 70% of the funds will be distributed to counties; 30% will go to Wisconsin's Department of Health Services.

The portion DHS receives will have to be approved by members on the powerful budget writing committee, which Evers believes is unconstitutional by having lawmakers sign off on settlements.

This is part of an on-going feud after Republicans in 2018 passed a law during the lame duck session that requires any lawsuit settlement to go through legislative approval.

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