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Governor Christie Vetoes Bill That Would Have Expanded Recovery High School Program

Conditions of Veto Would "Render The Legislation Useless" According to Sponsor

TRENTON, NJ—Governor Christie vetoed a bill on August 10 that would have created three additional recovery high schools for addicts in New Jersey.

The recovery high school pilot program was established on Kean University's campus, and passed in 2014. The law created the first school in the state that focused on recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.

State Senator Raymond Lesniak was one of the main sponsors of the bill and the first recovery high school is named after him.  It opened last year in and currently serves 14 students. 

Lesniak told Politico New Jersey that he was "dumbfounded" by Christie's veto.

In his veto message, which stated that the veto was conditional and not absolute, Governor Christie cited concerns that the bill would "unnecessarily restrict access to these programs as a result of overly burdensome State oversight and regulation."

Instead, he recommended that the bill be changed to allow for local school districts, not the state, to be able to create "alternative school programs." 

Though Senator Lesniak rebutted Christie's veto message, saying that schools already have the authority to create such programs without the need for legislation. 

"I don't understand what the Governor did, I don't think he understands what he did with it."

Under a conditional veto, the bills goes back to the Legislature, where lawmakers incorporate the recommendations into the bill and vote on it. 

Lesniak stated however that he would "certainly not accept the conditions of [Christie's] veto," and that instead he may seek to override the Governor's vote.

The conditions of the veto would strip the recovery high school programs of state standards and state financial assistance.

Lesniak added that the conditions would "render the legislation useless, and will result in no new recovery schools in the State of New Jersey."

"Many children may be denied an opportunity to get an education and get sober."

Christie added that it would be too restrictive to limit these schools only to students in recovery. He added in his veto statement that the bill should be amended to allow for local districts to open up to a wider range of students, referring to the schools as "alternate educaton programs" rather than recovery high schools.

Lesniak told NJ Spotlight that Christie's veto, in light of his presidential aspirations, wasn't entirely surprising, mentioning that Christie had been trying for several months to depict himself as opposed to overly burdensome state regulations for schools.

Lesniak, who is mulling a potential run for Governor, said that he would consider trying to override the Christie's veto, a feat that the Democrat-controlled legislature has failed to achieve during the Christie era.

"I'm going to speak to Senator Kean if we should override the veto, 'cause I would need his support."