This story about what Louisiana is doing with the opioid settlement money isn’t being reported as the political win that it is for Landry – or the check-mate against John Bel Edwards that it represents. More on that below…
Louisiana intends to divvy up the $325 million it expects to receive from a national settlement of opioid epidemic lawsuits to parish sheriffs and local governments to provide addiction treatment, response and recovery services, Attorney General Jeff Landry said Wednesday.
The Republican attorney general announced he had reached an agreement in principal with organizations representing Louisiana’s sheriffs, police juries and municipalities that will govern how the money will be divided and spent.
“We want 100% of the funds to go to assisting those affected,” Landry said at an event with representatives of the local government associations and lawyers involved in the deal.
The attorney general said Louisiana is expected to receive $18 million a year for 18 years as its share of a $26 billion deal involving 42 states to settle opioid abuse lawsuits involving three of the nation’s largest drug distribution companies and drugmaker Johnson & Johnson.
Opioids have been linked to more than 500,000 deaths in the United States since 2000.
Under the agreement Landry announced Wednesday, Louisiana’s health department and other state agencies won’t receive any of the settlement money, except for administrative costs related to an opioids abatement council. That council will review the spending of settlement money by local agencies to make sure they’re following the guidance that the dollars go to addiction treatment.
Officials across the state’s 64 parishes still have to sign off on the deal, but the backing of the local government organizations is expected to help secure those signatures. Walter Leger Jr., a private attorney who worked on the settlement, said the state has about three months to get the required signatures from sheriffs, parish councils and other local officials.
After any administrative costs are backed out, sheriffs will receive 20% of the money, while parishes, cities and towns will split the other 80%.
How much each municipality receives will be set through a nationally devised formula that uses population and the number of opioid prescriptions and opioid related deaths among residents, Leger said.
The Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office will be able to audit the local government spending to confirm it follows the state’s guidelines.
At the press conference where this deal was announced yesterday, Landry had Dan Schneider, the Chalmette pharmacist who starred in the Netflix series about opioids and Big Pharma misconduct, and Walt Leger – the famous trial attorney and father of the former state legislator – singing his praises. and all the top brass from the Louisiana Sheriffs Association, the Louisiana Municipal Association and the Louisiana Police Jury Association lining up with him.
Most of the time if a Republican statewide official does something to get all of those people lining up behind him you’d think it was a grievous sin against conservatism. But in this case it’s really pretty good.
We’re talking about having more than $300 million coming into Louisiana for drug rehabilitation out of that opioid settlement and none of it, or almost none of it, is going to flow through the Louisiana Department of Health.
This is not what John Bel Edwards wanted. Edwards wanted LDH and its bloated, corrupt bureaucracy to be able to siphon off that settlement money into little pots controlled by his friends so the usual cronies could get paid. Instead, Landry is putting that money through to the sheriffs and local governments.
Who will now look upon Jeff Landry as a benefactor.
Is that good public policy? We think it is. Anything which limits the Louisiana Department of Health’s role in the life and public finances of this state is good public policy by default. LDH is basically the devil, so keeping them away from the opioid money is a big win for conservatives and reformers even if the locals getting this money do a less-than-awesome job with it.
You won’t see this aspect of it reported anywhere, which is par for the course. Landry get little wins like this all the time, and they’re never reported as such by the media.
But when he gets the federal government to push back by a year a requirement that turtle-excluder devices be used by Louisiana shrimpers, you might not know about it but the shrimpers sure do. And when he gets a Gulf offshore oil lease sale done by fighting the feds’ moratorium in court, the oil people will know even if the Advocate’s readers don’t.
And so on.
We’re not declaring the 2023 election over or anything like that. What we’re saying is that of all the candidates who are out there preparing a run, regardless of what the legacy media is reporting, the guy who’s doing the most to draw in support from the various constituencies you need if you’re going to win a gubernatorial race in this state is Landry.
He’s the first Republican “frontrunner” candidate who the trial lawyers don’t have a problem with. He’s the first one the sheriffs are open do back, though that’s probably not fair given that Edwards’ brother was a member of the organization. He’s the first one the local government people aren’t poised to vigorously oppose.
That means something.
Now – Landry doesn’t have any of those people locked in. They could go to somebody else in the eternity between now and 2023. And their support isn’t necessarily the end-all of winning. But historically, having them with you makes the difference between winning and losing, and Landry is laying those bricks.