Hobbs asks court to overturn order banning transfer of opioid funds

Hobbs asks court to overturn order banning transfer of opioid funds

Gov. Katie Hobbs and state lawmakers are asking a judge to immediately overturn a Thursday order that blocks the state, at least for now, from seizing money from the opioid settlement fund.

And his lawyer, Andrew Gaona, said Friday that Attorney General Kris Mayes was playing fast and loose in asking a court commissioner to enjoin the transfer Thursday night.

In new documents, Gaona told Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Scott Minder that Mayes filed his request for a temporary restraining order before notifying the Department of Administration, the enforcement agency. State responsible for transferring funds to the Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry. In fact, Gaona said, by the time he had a chance to review the attorney general’s filing, court commissioner Mary Cronin had already granted a temporary restraining order.

At the very least, Gaona said, Mayes failed to provide an affidavit alleging the facts necessary to obtain such an order. But he told Minder in his legal filing that the way Mayes handled the whole thing was inappropriate.

“This is simply not how we practice law in Arizona,” he wrote:

“The Attorney General’s lawyer could have called someone earlier in the day or even on the way to the courthouse to let them know what was happening instead of sending a last minute email to an agency critical condition,” Gaona said, even though there was no message. a way for lawyers or the governor to “be heard in a meaningful way.”

What it also meant, he said, was that the commissioner only had one side of the story.

“What the Attorney General doesn’t tell Commissioner Cronin – and what the Attorney General’s maneuvers have assured neither the Department of Administration nor the other parties could tell the court – is that his allegations have serious legal flaws,” Gaona said.

And it starts, he said, with the fact that the $115 million in question is part of a budget deal reached between Hobbs and Republican legislative leaders. Gaona said it is they who have the power to appropriate state funds, not the attorney general

Mayes’ press secretary, Richie Taylor, declined immediate comment.

The attorney general filed suit Thursday evening, obtaining a temporary restraining order after arguing to Cronin that the money was part of $1.14 billion the state had obtained in settlements with manufacturers , opioid distributors and pharmacies accused of causing and exacerbating drug use. Mayes says the agreement, approved by a federal judge, requires his office to review applications and determine which programs to fund.

In contrast, the budget simply calls for $75 million to go to the Department of Corrections now, a measure that ensures the state ends the fiscal year on June 30 with a balanced budget. The remaining $40 million is earmarked for the agency for the new budget year.

Cronin, without hearing from the governor, agreed Thursday to block the move, based at least in part on Mayes’ assertion that allowing the funds to be taken that way would endanger future payments.

It’s not just Hobbs who urges Minder to dissolve the restraining order.

The governor filed a joint motion Friday with legislative leaders detailing the “painful hours” it took to pass a $17.2 billion spending plan for the rest of this fiscal year and $16.1 billion for new Year. This, they said, involved “a series of difficult compromises.”

But it resulted in a budget that garnered both Republican and Democratic votes, “putting Arizona on solid financial footing for the next fiscal year.”

“Despite this success, however, the Attorney General overstepped her authority and decided to torpedo these efforts, based on her own public policy prerogatives,” their lawyers wrote.

Aside from the alleged problems with the restraining order, Gaona wants Minder to conclude that the funds transferred to the Department of Corrections fall within the uses permitted under the settlement agreement. He pointed out that the budget language specifies that the agency can only use transferred funds to pay for authorized expenses.

And Gaona said they were clearly there.

He said that during this budget year, the one that ends June 30, the Department of Corrections incurred at least $45 million in costs for opioid-related treatment. And Gaona said some of those bills from companies that provide health care and medications to the agency have not yet been paid.

If bills aren’t paid on time, he said, the state risks future litigation, fees and interest.

Gaona hopes to get a hearing before Minder by Monday.