Purdue Agrees to Pay Billions in Tentative Opioid-Crisis Settlement With States and Cities

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STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | North Carolina politics, ooh boy … Massachusetts mayor facing charges not going to step down … New Mexico DA pushing ahead lethal force reform.

Purdue Pharma has reached a tentative settlement in an opioid crisis lawsuit brought by nearly half of the states in the nation and more than 2,000 cities and counties. The Washington Post reported Wednesday that, under the terms of the proposed deal, Purdue would break with its owners, the billionaire Sackler family, declare bankruptcy, and become “a trust whose main purpose would be to produce medications to combat the opioid epidemic.” Bloomberg reported that the deal includes an agreement on the part of Purdue to pay $12 billion to support efforts to address the public health crisis fueled by the drugs. News of the tentative settlement marks a major development in legal efforts to win accountability for the intense and often heedless way the powerful opioids had been marketed and distributed over the last two decades, and it comes as courts have started handing down rulings in smaller-scale cases against the drugmakers. “The [Sackler] family supports working toward a global resolution that directs resources to the patients, families and communities across the country who are suffering and need assistance,” read a statement issued by the family. “This is the most effective way to address the urgency of the current public health crisis, and to fund real solutions, not endless litigation.” Some of the state attorneys general party to a related suit disagree. They are holding out, demanding greater accountability from the Sacklers, who made fortunes from the sale of OxyContin and have recently been moving vast sums out of Purdue as it became clear the money could be lost in court. The attorneys general objecting to the deal, mostly Democrats, say the agreement announced Wednesday would work to limit the family’s financial exposure while also washing the family’s soiled reputation. “These people are among the most responsible for the trail of death and destruction the opioid epidemic has left in its wake,” said North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro vowed to sue the Sacklers personally. The Post quoted federal reports that list the number of prescription drug overdose deaths since 1999 was at least 200,000. [Washington Post, Bloomberg]

NORTH CAROLINA POLITICS | North Carolina Republicans called a vote Wednesday to override a veto on the state’s stalled budget while many House lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper were attending a 9/11 memorial ceremony. “The Republican caucus was laying in wait, ready for this,” Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper said. With nearly half of the 120 members of the House not present, Speaker Tim Moore apparently saw an opening: In the sparsely populated chamber, he needed only 40 votes to pass the proposal. While Democrats said they understood votes wouldn't be held, Moore said no promises were made to Democrats on the vote schedule. “All they had to do is show up for work,” he said. Democratic Rep. Deb Butler shouted up from the floor to Moore on the dais during the vote. “We have been here day and night for months, defending what we believe, and you would submit this body to trickery, deception, deceit. It is so typical,” she said. House Republicans have been unable to pass a veto override for months. It would also have to be approved by the Senate.  [The News & Observer, Washington Post, CBS17]

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION | This year, Washington state passed an affirmative action law. Now an Asian-American group is spearheading an effort to repeal that law with Referendum 88, which will appear on ballots this November. The group, Washington Asians for Equality, which is centered in Bellevue, across Lake Washington east of Seattle, includes many Chinese immigrant parents who see affirmative action policies as divisive and potentially discriminatory. They fear their high-performing children will face disadvantages in state university admissions. Don’t make school about “skin color,” one of the parents told Bellevue School Board members at a hearing last year. Crosscut has posted an update on the group’s efforts that includes the back story on the long-running battle in Washington over affirmative action policies. [Crosscut, KiroRadio-MyNortwest]

STILL MAYOR | Jasiel F. Correia II, mayor of Fall River, Massachusetts, said he has no plans to resign despite a City Council vote urging him to do so and what the Boston Globe referred to as a “looming federal indictment” connected to extortion and fraud charges. “I’m innocent,” Correia  said. “I’ll have my day in court.” The 27-year-old mayor has proved resistant to calls to leave office. The latest city council vote is the second one that has passed asking him to resign. That one passed in March right before a national-headline-making special election in which residents simultaneously voted in favor of recalling him but also, due to the number of candidates running for mayor in the election, ended up voting him back into office. [Boston Globe]

LETHAL FORCE REFORM | The story of the effort in New Mexico to reform the system that reviews police use of lethal force is entering a new chapter. Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez says he is done waiting for a “DA panel” to determine whether the Albuquerque police officer who killed 19-year-old Mary Hawkes in 2014 should be prosecuted. Instead, the first-term, Democratic DA has referred the case directly to the state’s attorney general. [Santa Fe Reporter, New Mexico in Depth]

John Tomasic is a journalist who lives in Seattle.

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