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Kentucky attorney general Andy Beshear touts opioid manufacturer lawsuits as part of successful year

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear pointed to his nine lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors, his efforts to combat human trafficking and utility rate hikes as evidence that 2018 has been a good year for his office.

During an interview with reporters on Monday, Beshear said his office is the “most aggressive Attorney General’s in terms of suing opioid manufacturers and distributors in the country.”

Beshear said Kentucky has been ravaged by the opioid epidemic more than any other state, saying 30 Kentuckians die from a fatal overdose every week.

Attorney General Andy Beshear said his office has been one of the toughest in the country toward opioid manufacturers. (Photo by Tom Latek, Kentucky Today)

“It’s important in these lawsuits and in pursuit of justice for these families, that we make sure Kentucky doesn’t just have a seat at the table if there is an alternate resolution with these companies, but that we are at the front of the line,” he said.

He said he realizes that his efforts wouldn’t bring anybody back who was lost and may not bring a lot of peace to those who lost a family member, but will help others from the same heartbreaking fate.

“It could provide the funding for the type of prevention programs, the type of opioid disposal programs, treatment for everybody who needs it, funds for recovery to keep people well,” he said. “If we’re going to have a chance at that one transformational moment, I want to make surer that I’ve positioned this office to secure it and get the next generation a world without the same risks as this one.”

Beshear described the opioid epidemic as “the crisis of our time.”

He also vowed to continue to battle utility rate increases that Kentucky families cannot afford.

“Their wages never go up, but the power bill and the grocery bill and the gas bill seem to go up every month. So ensuring their utility bills are fair, has never been more important.”

He made note that in the last three years, his office has cut $1.2 billion off requested rate increases by utilities.

“We’ve actually gotten rate decreases in two cases, one with Atmos in west Kentucky and one in eastern Kentucky with Kentucky Power,” Beshear said.

Beshear said 2019 will be a challenging year, too.

“Five of the major utilities, covering 90 counties and over 75 percent of our population, are trying to raise the rates of Kentuckians,” he said. “You’re going to see us challenging every single one of those.”

He said 2018 has been their most successful year in addressing human trafficking.

“We have had more arrests of traffickers and more saves of victims this year than I think in any three-year period combined in our history. We had our most successful human trafficking sting in our state’s history with Louisville Metro Police during the Farm Machinery Show,” Beshear said. “We have had even more partners come on board, including TARC in that region. That creates eyes and ears throughout the community with every bus driver, dispatchers and others.”

Part of Beshear’s legislative agenda for 2019 includes passage of the Truckers Against Trafficking bill. “This bill has been passed by red states, blue states, green states, it’s just the right thing to do.”

He said Truckers Against Trafficking mandates training for every truck driver who passes his CDL test.

“It’s a 30-minute course on how to recognize human trafficking because we know truck stops are one of the number one targets of traffickers. They run these kids from cab to cab to cab, trying to sell their bodies, and I know that in at least one of those cabs there’s a responsible parent or adult, that if they recognize what’s happening, and they have the numbers, they will report it.”

Beshear said similar bills have been filed the last two years and they haven’t even gotten a committee hearing. “This is not about right versus left, it’s about right versus wrong, and for it to not even get a hearing is a sad statement on our current General Assembly.”

Beshear has announced he will seek the Democratic Gubernatorial nomination in the May Primary, with running mate Jacqueline Coleman, an assistant principal at Nelson County High School. He will face House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins in May for the right to take on Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, although Bevin may have opposition from 1st District Congressman James Comer in the GOP Primary.

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