No New Jersey governor has vetoed more bills than Gov. Chris Christie. And the Democrats, who have significant majorities in both houses of the Legislature, have been remarkably unwilling to attempt to override most of those vetoes, or unsuccessful when they have tried.
But the Good Samaritan Emergency Response Act (A578/S851) - which provides limited criminal immunity to people who call 911 in the event of a drug overdose - is one vetoed bill that Democrats should be willing to fight for. And it's one that shouldn't be difficult to override. It passed initially with wide bipartisan support.
Christie's conditional veto of the measure in October was curious in the first place. He has taken a courageous stand on reforming drug laws so that more users get treatment rather than prison time. "No life is disposable," Christie has said several times when touting his drug reforms.
But instead of signing the Good Samaritan Emergency Response Act, Christie conditionally vetoed it, calling for the Division of Criminal Justice to study the issue for 18 months. At the height of the presidential campaign, in which he was a major player, Christie was apparently hesitant to appear soft on drugs.
No further study is needed. Ten states already have similar laws. New Jersey already has the same kind of law to protect underage drinkers who call 911 to get medical help for another underage drinker.
The bill doesn't provide blanket immunity. It only provides immunity from prosecution for drug possession, being under the influence, possession of drug paraphernalia and parole or probation violations. (For the record, the immunity measure would not change the tough New Jersey law allowing a person who provides drugs that result in a fatal overdose to be tried for murder.)
But the hope is that the limited immunity would be enough to convince someone to call 911 to help an overdosing friend. Time is critical in such situations. The chances of surviving an overdose have much to do with how quickly help is received. No one should hesitate to call for help.
And as Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, D-Mercer, Hunterdon, noted during debate on the measure: "A drug overdose can sometimes be the clarion call an addict needs to seek help to overcome their addiction, but only if they survive, that is."
Assuming all Democrats are willing to vote to override the governor's veto, only three Republican votes would be needed in the Senate and six in the Assembly to make the measure law. That shouldn't be difficult.
Democratic leaders should show some backbone and push for an override. They need only ask their Republican colleagues one simple question:
If it were your son or daughter who had overdosed, would you want someone to call 911?