Legislature failed to pass bill that would turn opioid settlements into investment fund

Bill would turn opioid settlement payouts into investment fund
Published: May. 26, 2023 at 7:20 PM AKDT|Updated: May. 26, 2023 at 7:21 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The regular legislative session ended with some big proposals still left on the table. One of them, SB 133, would have set up special funds to deal with the growing opioid crisis in the state.

The Legislature looked at creating two streams of money to address the crisis and support those caught in its grip for the long term.

“That was what the bill hoped to do, was to take that money that came in, be able to invest it and use that interest for an ongoing process for remediation,” chief medical officer Dr. Anne Zink said. “So just like with the PFD, being able to invest those funds and then being able to pay them out. The same sort of process, being able to invest these funds and being able to pay them out over a period of time.”

The funding for the opioid settlement investment fund would come from court settlements with pharmaceutical companies. The state is already expected to receive a settlement totaling more than $58 million. Lawmakers have thus far not decided how to use those funds.

“We are interested in bringing legislation back to securitize those funds so that they’re an ongoing funds source to be able to address the incredible burden of opioids in our state,” Zink said.

While the settlement payouts may only be spent on opioid remediation, “they still must be appropriated for that purpose by the Legislature before being spent,” Deputy Attorney General Cori Mills said.

“The situation next is that we’re working with [the Office of Management and Budget] to work through a process to be able to get out some of those funds as they start to come in. So, this is a long-term process, these funds don’t all come into the state at once,” Zink said.

The Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s office called SB 133 an “important bill” and said it hopes that it will be passed in the future.

“The governor is confident that the Legislature will give SB 133 the consideration this vital piece of legislation deserves during the next regular session,” Deputy Press Secretary Grant Robinson said.

State health officials say they won’t give up trying to set up a system to make the most of the money.