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Counties, cities suing drug manufacturers

By submitted, 07/28/18 8:33 AM

LITTLE ROCK – All 75 counties in the state and 375 Arkansas cities and towns have signed on to a lawsuit against drug manufacturers and distributors of opioids.

The historic partnership between cities and counties is an indicator of the severity of the opioid epidemic in Arkansas.

City officials heard an update on the opioid crisis during the 84th Convention of the Arkansas Municipal League, held recently at Little Rock.

The state Drug Director told convention delegates that the volume of opioids being distributed in Arkansas makes enforcement and treatment extremely difficult.

He said that there are108 prescriptions for every 100 people in the state. A couple of years ago the ratio was 114 prescriptions per 100 people, and the proportion has been more than 100 prescriptions per 100 people since 2007.

Another way of measuring the availability of the highly addictive drug in Arkansas is that more than 235 million pills were prescribed in a single year, in a state with a population of about three million people.

Opioids are painkillers such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, codeine, fentanyl and other prescription drugs.

Also during the convention, Municipal League delegates adopted more than 30 resolutions. One supports state legislation for the assessment and collection of local sales taxes on Internet sales.

A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, in a case titled South Dakota v. Wayfair, clears several obstacles that prevented local jurisdictions from collecting the sales tax on purchases made online.

The ruling was a victory for “bricks and mortar” retail stores that have been losing market share over the past decade, as Internet sales grow in popularity. Local business groups argued that they are at a competitive disadvantage because they collect sales taxes, which means their products will cost more than the same product sold online.

Last year Amazon, the giant online retailer, announced that it would voluntarily collect sales taxes.

The delegates adopted a resolution in support of legislation that would classify Internet providers as utilities.

Another resolution by Municipal League delegates supports legislation that would allow cities and towns to use electronic devices to enforce traffic laws.

Also, the Municipal League delegates endorsed a package of resolutions urging changes to the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act. One change they endorse is to address the problems that arise when a city official receives a request for records that are so voluminous that responding to the request disrupts basic city services and operations.

Another change endorsed by the Municipal League would amend the state Child Maltreatment Act so to protect the records of juveniles. Also, the Municipal League will work to strengthen protections of the identities of confidential informers.

The Municipal League was formed in 1934, with the support of mayors and local chambers of commerce, to represent the interests of cities and towns before higher levels of government.

The Municipal League has successfully pushed for passage of laws to provide local governments with tort immunity from lawsuits, to allow cities to pass local option sales taxes for paying off bonds, and to establish procedures for annexing suburban lands.