The Ohio Attorney General's office wants a constitutional amendment to protect opioid settlement money. Attorney General Dave Yost says it would create a foundation that would ensure the money would be used specifically in the fight against the opioid epidemic.
Yost says doing this through a constitutional amendment makes sure state lawmakers cannot divert the money for other uses, which happened with the tobacco settlement.
"This is our way to put it in concrete that this money is going to be protected and used for the thing that everybody wants it to be used for."
Yost said this has to happen quickly, which would require lawmakers to pass a resolution within the next two weeks to put it on the March ballot.
Kent Scarrett, executive director of the Ohio Municipal League, said he agrees with the main goal of the constitutional amendment to create a foundation. However, he said pursuing a constitutional amendment would take too much time and create administrative issues.
"We need to act now and I think all parties agree on the urgency for us to come together and agree to one plan so that we can immediately react to any decisions that are made by the courts that will release funds."
He said it's important for all parties to agree to a plan as soon as possible. Scarrett emphasizes that a plan can have tight language that makes sure the legislature can't take over.
Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro released a statement opposing the proposed amendment, saying it undermines efforts that have been ongoing among many state and local leaders to develop a plan.
"As Attorney General Yost’s office also participated in those meetings, it is both surprising and disappointing to read about his newest attempt to control both the spending of state settlement dollars and the narrative surrounding the process. Attorney General Yost’s amendment is being sought in spite of the continuing work of communities who are earnestly trying to reach a consensus."
Shapiro's assistant chief of staff Greta Johnson said none of the local governments working on the plan with Yost saw this coming.
"It was disappointing to see him try to chart his own course once again. Controlling not only the spending of the dollars, but also the narrative surrounding essentially who put it into place."
Johnson said they had been closely working with Governor Mike DeWine and the attorney general on a plan to handle settlement money before this proposal came to light.
Read Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro's full statement on Yost's move below.