TRENTON – As towns pass resolutions in support of his vetoed Good Samaritan bill, Sen. Joe Vitale, (D-19), Woodbridge, said he plans to reintroduce it.
The Good Samaritan Emergency Response Act, which would give people immunity from prosecution when they are reporting drug overdoses, was conditionally vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie on Oct. 5.
In his veto message, Christie said the matter needs further study, and recommended the Division of Criminal Justice study the issue and provide suggestions to the administration.
“This bill fails to carefully consider all the interests that must be balanced when crafting immunities,’’ Christie said in the message.
On Wednesday evening, the Gloucester Township Council approved a resolution calling upon the Senate and Assembly to override Christie’s veto of the Good Samaritan Emergency Response Act (A578/S851). It joined the towns of Magnolia, Red Bank and Audubon, all of which passed similar resolutions, according to the Drug Policy Institute.
In a telephone interview, Vitale said he plans to reintroduce the bill next week and will ask for the Judiciary Committee to hold a hearing. He said he plans to meet with the Christie Administration to discuss its concerns, adding that he’s open to compromise “if it means getting the bill done and we can find some common ground.”
At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in June, some Republicans, including Sen. Gerald Cardinale, (R-39), Demarest, expressed concern the bill does nothing to go after the drug perpetrators.
“My point is I don’t want to absolve real facilitators of people taking drugs that lead to overdose,” he said at the hearing. “I believe this law gives an opportunity to people who have caused harm to get out of it by making this call.”
He added there is nothing now preventing people from making 911 calls anonymously.
“There has to be consequences for people who encourage others to use drugs,” he said then.
But Audubon Mayor John Ward called on the Legislature to take action in support of the bill.
“We firmly believe that any legislation that encourages individuals to call 911 for emergency medical assistance, regardless of the circumstances surrounding the need for the call, is good legislation. If this law saves one life as a result it is worth the effort,” Ward said in a statement.
Patty DiRenzo, a Blackwood resident who lost her son, Salvatore, to an overdose when he was age 27, also supports the bill.
“I’m thrilled that a growing number of New Jersey towns are taking the initiative to stand up and fight for a policy that will literally save thousands of lives,” she said. “I was devastated to learn of the Governor’s veto but these resolutions are an encouraging sign that the fight is not over. I will do whatever I need to do in Sal’s memory to save lives. The Legislature must stand up and do the right thing.”
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