Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed two bills Monday, including one aimed at encouraging people to call 911 to report drug overdoses, even if they are in possession of illegal substances.
That legislation, House Bill 225 by Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, had two parts, the first of which provided a defense for those prosecuted for possessing small amounts of drugs while seeking medical help for an overdose victim.
In a veto statement Tuesday, Abbott said HB225 lacks “adequate protections to prevent its misuse by habitual drug abusers and drug dealers.” His office devised amendments to address that concern, he said, but they did not make it into the final version of the bill.
Guillen disputed that account Tuesday, saying he had assurances from Abbott’s office that no further changes were needed after the House concurred with a Senate amendment backed by the governor.
“It was an opportunity to save lives,” Guillen said in a statement. “This comes as a surprise.”
Part of HB225 is still alive in the form of Senate Bill 1462, which awaits Abbott’s signature. That measure allows emergency medical personnel to administer a drug that provides temporary relief to overdose victims.
Abbott also vetoed Senate Bill 359 by Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas. The legislation would have let physicians temporarily detain patients who are believed to be mentally ill or dangerous to themselves or others.
In a separate veto statement, Abbott objected to the legislation on constitutional grounds, saying it would effectively grant arrest powers to private citizens who have neither had the same training nor taken the same oath as law officers. SB359, Abbott said, “would lay the groundwork for further erosion of constitutional liberties.”
Both bills had the backing of the powerful Texas Medical Association. In a statement Tuesday, the head of the association addressed SB359, saying the group is “extremely disappointed in Gov. Abbott for vetoing a bill that would have saved lives, provided short-term help for people with mental illness, and actually would have kept some of them out of forced imprisonment.”