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Abbott Vetoes Overdose Defense, Emergency Detention Bills

Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed two bills on Monday, including one aimed at encouraging people to call 911 during drug overdoses, even if they are in possession of illegal substances themselves.

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*Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.

Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed two bills on Monday, including one aimed at encouraging people to call 911 during drug overdoses, even if they are in possession of illegal substances themselves. 

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 HB 225 lacks "adequate protections to prevent its misuse by habitual drug abusers and drug dealers." He noted his office came up with amendments to address the concern, 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 House Bill 225 is still alive in the form of Senate Bill 1462, which is awaiting 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 lets physicians temporarily detain patients who are believed to be mentally ill or a danger to themselves or others.

In a separate veto statement Tuesday, Abbott objected to the legislation on constitutional grounds, arguing it would effectively grant arrest power to private citizens who have neither taken the same training nor oath office as law enforcement officials do. Senate Bill 359, Abbott added, "would lay the groundwork for further erosion of constitutional liberties."

Both bills had the backing of the power Texas Medical Association. In a statement Tuesday, the head of TMA specifically addressed SB 359, 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."

"The governor should have reached out to physicians and other medical personnel who provide care in the real world of our emergency rooms before vetoing this legislation," TMA President Tom Garcia said in a statement. "They would have told him about the patients they encounter who pose a real danger to themselves or to those around them."

Disclosure: The Texas Medical Association is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

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State government 84th Legislative Session Governor's Office Greg Abbott Ryan Guillen Texas Legislature