Lawmakers back heroin legislation, override Rauner veto

Democratic and Republican lawmakers joined to toss out Gov. Bruce Rauner's rewrite of legislation meant to prevent heroin overdose deaths despite concerns about its price tag.

The Illinois House Wednesday overrode Rauner's veto of a proposal to push courts to use more treatment options with heroin addicts and require local authorities to keep overdose antidotes on hand.

If the bill is approved, it means many efforts already underway in the suburbs to combat heroin use will be expanded statewide, such as the well-established programs in DuPage and Lake counties to provide police officers with an antidote to heroin overdoses called naloxone, Narcan or Evzio.

Approval also could be a victory for suburban anti-heroin advocates who are fighting for things like naloxone availability at pharmacies and better statistics about drug overdoses treated at hospitals.

"We can be ground zero for the resolution of the crisis," state Rep. Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat, said.

The governor removed a section of the legislation that requires Medicaid to pay for opioid addiction treatment without some of the cost-saving mechanisms Rauner supports. Rauner suggested the rest of the proposal could be helpful without potentially costing Illinois - which has gone two months without a budget - millions of dollars.

But in the end, Democrats and some Republicans in the House voted to drop Rauner's changes by a 105-5 vote. Now, the Senate will have the option to do the same in the coming weeks. If senators override Rauner, the plan becomes law despite his objections. If they don't, the whole proposal languishes.

Lawmakers overrode Rauner after Democrats first went 0-4 in trying to override vetoes earlier in the day.

Republicans including House GOP Leader Jim Durkin joined Democrats to override Rauner, saying too many young people have died from overdoses.

"It brings tears to many of our eyes," Durkin said. "And we have to do everything within our power to stop this and reverse this before it gets more pervasive," Durkin said.

Chelsea Laliberte of Palatine was at the Capitol to push for the override. She's been fighting for part of the package known as "Lali's Law," named for her brother, Alex, who died of an overdose in 2008.

"There's no other place I would rather be today," Laliberte said.

No Republicans in the House voted against the plan originally, but some chose to stick by Rauner's rewrite because of the cost concerns he described.

State Rep. Ron Sandack, a Downers Grove Republican, said Rauner's changes, which kept most of the legislation but kept costs to a state with financial trouble in mind, were reasonable.

"I liked the bill then," Sandack, who voted to override, said. "I like the bill now."

• Daily Herald Staff Writers Marie Wilson and Jessica Cilella contributed to this story.

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