Legislative wrap-up 3/19/19

March 19, 2019

Legislature approves National Popular Vote

Delaware state legislators have approved a bill changing Delaware’s Electoral College votes from following the presidential candidate who wins the state’s popular vote. Under the National Popular Vote bill, Delaware’s Electoral College votes will go to the presidential candidate who wins the national popular vote even if state voters choose someone different. The House passed the bill March 14 by a vote of 24-17. The Senate passed the bill a week earlier by a vote of 14-7. The bill now awaits Gov. John Carney’s signature. If the bill becomes law, the change in Electoral College votes would not happen until enough states pass a compact for a total of 270 votes – the number of votes needed by a presidential candidate in order to win election. With Delaware’s vote, more than a dozen states have approved the compact for 175 Electoral College votes.

Opioid impact fee aimed at manufacturers 

A Senate Bill introduced March 12 seeks to add an impact fee on opioid pills to fund treatment for substance abusers.

Senate Bill 34 would force some of the nation’s largest drug makers to help cover the cost of addiction in the First State by creating an opioid impact fee, a small levy assessed per milligram morphine equivalent. Money collected from the fee then would be directed to a special fund created by the bill to help those suffering from substance abuse disorder get the treatment they need.

“For too long, these companies have reaped record profits while avoiding responsibility for the pain and suffering their products have caused,” said Sen. Hansen, D-Middletown, the bill’s prime sponsor in the Senate. “With this bill, we will begin holding these companies accountable by forcing them to direct some of that revenue toward breaking the cycle of abuse, addiction and death.”

The levy created by the bill would establish a two-tier fee paid only by those opioid manufacturers whose products are of the highest strength and/or most widely dispensed in our state, based on data already collected by Delaware’s Prescription Monitoring Program.

Every three months, those manufacturers would be billed one penny per every morphine milligram equivalent of their brand-name opioid dispensed in the state and one-quarter of a cent for every MME of their generic opioid sold here.

State officials estimate the fee would generate more than $8 million over the next three years to help fund enrollment in residential treatment programs for the uninsured and underinsured, expand treatment options statewide and conduct research on effective opioid treatments. The fund would be administered by the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services with input from the Behavioral Health Consortium, Addiction Action Committee and the Overdose System of Care.

The bill is co-sponsored by 17 Democrats and three Republicans. So far, at least 14 other states have introduced similar legislation. Only New York has passed such a measure, although its law is currently being challenged by opioid manufacturers and distributors based on limitations on how those businesses could recoup their costs – language not included in SB 34.

“While the money raised by an opioid impact fee will make a tremendous difference for Delawareans suffering from addiction, it won’t put the slightest dent in the bottom line for individual drug companies,” Hansen said. “Any claims to the contrary are a clear indication that profit is being given greater value than the lives of our children and families.”