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NEWS 7.27.22: New Iowa Supreme Court Judge, COVID-19 Increases, Opioid Settlement, Gas Prices, and More

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Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds/Facebook
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Gov. Kim Reynolds has appointed Judge David May to the Iowa Supreme Court.

May currently serves on the Iowa Court of Appeals.

He was chosen from a short list of three candidates sent to Gov. Reynolds by the State Judicial Nominating Commission a month ago.

May says he intends to decide cases based on the law as written and with what’s consistent with the U-S and Iowa constitutions.

The basic principles of judging remain the same. Judges don't exercise the powers of the executive and the legislature. We have a different job. Our job is to decide legal disputes.”

May will be the fifth appointee Gov. Reynolds’ has made to the state Supreme Court.

He is filling a vacancy left by Justice Brent Appel, who retired this month.

State officials have confirmed the presence of a rare so-called brain-eating amoeba at a lake in southern Iowa.

The state says the Centers for Disease Control helped confirmed the presence of Naegleria fowleri at Lake of Three Fires in Taylor County.

Earlier this month, a swimmer from Missouri died after developing a brain infection caused by the amoeba.

Officials say the amoeba is commonly found in freshwater. But it only causes brain infections in extremely rare cases, such as when water goes up the nose and reaches the brain.

The state Department of Natural Resources says it will re-open Lake of Three Fires tomorrow (Thursday) and will post signs warning swimmers about the presence of the amoeba.

State health officials are reporting an increase in the number of reported positive COVID-19 tests in the past week.

They reported more than 72 hundred positive tests in the past seven days.

That marks an increase of more than 600 tests from last week as the highly contagious omicron B-A 5 subvariant circulates throughout the state.

Transmission rates also rose from low to medium in Woodbury County, with an increase of more than 30% from July 14th to the 20th.

However, federal officials say 249 Iowans are hospitalized for COVID. That’s a slight drop from last week’s number.

Twenty-two of those hospitalizations are in the ICU.

The CDC reports 62.6% of all Iowans are fully vaccinated against the virus.

An opioid manufacturer is willing to pay up billions to settle thousands of legal claims, including one filed by the State of Iowa.

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller has been a lead negotiator for a dozen states that sued Teva Pharmaceuticals. He says the settlement is another major step in addressing the opioid crisis. (Details outlined in news release found below).

President Joe Biden has approved a request for a federal disaster declaration for a portion of Nebraska that suffered damage from severe storms and straight-line winds in May. The designation allows state, local and tribal governments and some private nonprofit organizations to access federal funding on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and for the repair or replacement of damaged facilities. The declaration covers 20 counties from central to northeastern Nebraska. The National Weather Services says a line of storms that moved through the eastern half of the state on May 12 generated straight-line winds of up to 100 mph in some places, downing power lines, poles and trees and damaging buildings.

The Iowa Capital Dispatch reports extreme drought is persisting in northwest Iowa in the area of Sioux City.

The extreme drought of Sioux City — the second-worst classification to ‘exceptional’ — might include major crop losses and widespread water shortages.

A USDA report on Monday said crop conditions slipped slightly from a week ago.

Corn conditions were 80% good or excellent, compared with 81% the week before. Soybeans were rated 75% good or excellent at the start of this week, down from 78% the week before.

Iowa casinos took in a record amount of money in the fiscal year that just ended — despite a slowdown in the past months.

Iowa casinos reported $1.7 billion in gross revenue for casino games and slots during the last fiscal year. Click here for more information from Radio Iowa.

Iowa motorists might be noticing they have a little more pocket change lately as gasoline prices have been steadily falling in recent days.

A spokesperson for AAA-Iowa tells Radio Iowa pump prices peaked in mid-June and have dropped considerably since then. The state average is $4.06. It is down about 25 cents from a week ago and down almost 60 cents from a month ago.

The current national average price for gas is $4.32 a gallon, which is 26 cents higher than in Iowa. The decline is due to low demand.

The thousands of bicyclists on RAGBRAI are heading for Mason City today on the longest leg of the ride in almost four decades.

It’s the first ‘Century Day’ since 1985, according to Radio Iowa.

The Plymouth County Fair in Le Mars kicks off today. The event at the Plymouth County Fairgrounds bills itself as the best 5 days of summer. So, that means festivities will continue through Sunday.

New release from Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller:

Opioids maker Teva agrees to $4.25 billion settlement 

Preliminary agreement would provide cash, naloxone to address opioids crisis

DES MOINES – Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller has reached an agreement in principle on key financial terms with opioid maker Teva, which would provide up to $4.25 billion to participating states and local governments.

While critical details of the settlement remain the subject of ongoing negotiations, Teva disclosed the first details of the agreement ahead of its earnings announcement Wednesday.

“This is another major step in addressing the opioids crisis,” Miller said, noting that Iowa was a leading state in negotiating today’s agreement with Teva. “We expect these funds to make a significant difference in preventing fatal overdoses and treating opioid addiction disorder.”

Teva, an Israel-based drug manufacturer, makes Actiq and Fentora, which are branded fentanyl products for cancer pain, and a number of generic opioids, including oxycodone.

States alleged that Teva:

  • promoted potent, rapid-onset fentanyl products for use by non-cancer patients;
  • deceptively marketed opioids by downplaying the risk of addiction and overstating their benefits, including encouraging the idea that signs of addiction are actually “pseudoaddiction” treated by prescribing more opioids; and
  • failed to comply with suspicious order monitoring requirements along with its distributor, Anda.

The parties have agreed on the following financial terms:

  • Teva will pay a maximum of $4.25 billion in cash over 13 years. This figure includes amounts Teva has already agreed to pay under settlements with individual States, funds for participating States and subdivisions, and the $240 million of cash in lieu of product described below.
  • As part of the financial term, Teva will provide up to $1.2 billion in generic naloxone (valued at Wholesale Acquisition Cost or WAC) over a 10-year period or $240 million of cash in lieu of product, at each State’s election. Naloxone is used to counteract overdoses.
  • The settlement will build on the existing framework that states and subdivisions have created through other recent opioid settlements.

A final settlement remains contingent on agreement on critical business practice changes and transparency requirements.
“Leading a coalition of states to hold accountable the manufacturers of opioids is a priority for our office, which is why I have directed substantial resources toward this effort,” Miller said. “We are dedicated to ensuring that help is available to Iowans who are victims of the opioid epidemic.”

The negotiations are being led by the following states: California, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin. While New York is among the 12 states that negotiated this proposed settlement framework, Teva and New York are still engaged in further negotiations.

Sheila Brummer returns to her radio roots as a Reporter/Special Projects Producer for Siouxland Public Media KWIT-KOJI.