Gov. Mike DeWine says he’s trying to unify elected officials and lawyers from cities and counties involved in opioid related lawsuits, to come up with a broad agreement on how the billions of dollars that will likely come their way will be spent.
DeWine said the all-day gathering of about 100 city and county elected officials and their lawyers at the Governor’s Residence, along with Attorney General Dave Yost, is the first of its kind among any state seeking damages from opioid manufacturers and distributors.
“There was a real consensus that if we can come together with an agreement about how to spend this money that that's going to put us in a much better position. So it gives us more leverage more negotiating power.”
DeWine said it’s not just important for the devastation this opioid epidemic has wreaked on small and big counties in the last decade, but also to preserve money to fight any future drug crisis.
There have been questions about how any awards from opioid-related lawsuits would be spent since this summer, when Yost filed an appeal to delay the huge trial in federal court that was set to start Monday, but ended up in a settlement. Yost had also backed a bill that would give state lawmakers authority to spend most of the money, but now says that bill was just a draft. He and DeWine have both said money should go primarily to local governments.
DeWine and other officials have also said they’re concerned about the spending that happened after the 1998 master tobacco settlement – some of that money was used to patch a budget deficit and to repair school buildings.
DeWine has set another meeting for next week.