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Nebraska Gov.'s Veto Of Needle Exchange Bill Sustained

Nebraska's liberal and conservative legislators passed a bill last month allowing local governments to establish needle exchanges. However, Gov. Jim Pillen vetoed the bill, warning against bringing “the failed policies of drug-infested cities like San Francisco here,” and on Tuesday, Nebraska lawmakers changed course and narrowly sustained his veto, The New York Times reports. Supporters of the bill spoke of the chance the bill offers to limit disease transmission and help drug users secure treatment. At the same time, Pillen, a Republican, asked lawmakers to “sustain my veto to prevent our government from aiding and abetting the use of dangerous, illicit and dehumanizing drugs.” The governor’s pitch persuaded enough lawmakers to change their minds. Twenty-seven of Nebraska’s 49 lawmakers voted to override the veto on Tuesday, three short of the required 30 votes to enact a bill over Pillen’s objection.


“For people who are still using, who are still facing addiction, whatever reason, this is a door,” said the bill’s sponsor, State Senator Megan Hunt, a political independent who used to be a Democrat. “This is an opportunity for them to get treatment for the first time.” The bill would have allowed cities and counties in Nebraska to create programs where drug users could discard old needles and pick up clean ones, which supporters say would reduce the risk that H.I.V. or other diseases would be spread through needle sharing. Local governments would have been allowed, but not required, to set up the needle exchanges, which are sometimes called syringe service programs. The exchange sites would also have offered access to substance abuse treatment. After the vote, Hunt, who introduced the Nebraska bill, said she hoped needle exchanges could be legalized in her state in a future legislative session. She said the idea might fare better if a Republican sponsors it. “I can only imagine what it’s like to be addicted, but I can tell you, if no one reaches out a hand, they’re never going to get better,” said State Senator Mike Jacobson, a Republican who supported overriding the veto.

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