Capitol Notes

UPDATED: Cuomo signs opioid settlement fund lockbox bill with undisclosed caveats

Legislation designed to ensure funds from future settlements with opioid manufacturers and distributors is spent on substance abuse treatment and prevention was signed Tuesday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, with the understanding that the Democratic majorities in the state Legislature will make future changes to the law.

In an approval memorandum indicating there will be a chapter amendment, Cuomo writes that he is fully supportive of an “opioid settlement fund,” but notes that he has reached an agreement with lawmakers to “make several technical changes to this bill to ensure fund monies are utilized in the prevention, treatment, education, and abatement of opioid addiction.” He added that the amendments will preserve his administration’s ability to pursue administrative proceedings.

The governor has traditionally balked at efforts to codify how state funds are spent, but state Attorney General Letitia James upped the stakes with this effort by tying a portion of recent settlement funds to the fate of this bill.

Following the signing of the bill, James said in a statement that directing these funds to prevention, education and treatment is an important part of ending the opioid epidemic and obtaining justice for its victims.

“While no amount of money will ever compensate for the thousands who lost their lives or became addicted to opioids across our state, or provide solace to the countless families torn apart by this crisis, this law ensures funds are used to prevent any future devastation. I thank Governor Cuomo, Senator Rivera, and Assemblymember Woerner, as well as the county and local governments, advocates, service providers, and families for working with our office over the last six months to get this law passed,” James said.

UPDATE: The Capitol Pressroom has obtained a summary of the amendments that the Democratic majorities in the state Legislature have agreed to implement.

The legislation, as the result of the future changes, will only apply to settlements entered in after June 1, 2021, more narrowly defines the list of possible expenditures with settlement funds, tweaks the composition of the advisory board and alters the state attorney general’s power to “direct” settlement funds.

Approval Memo 10 by Capitol Pressroom on Scribd

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