The senate’s judiciary committee just voted seven to one for a bill that would provide legal immunity to those who call medics for someone overdosing on drugs. The bill is designed to encourage folks, who are afraid of getting busted, to call for help instead of abandoning an overdosing person to die. Drug overdoses killed 700 people in Washington in 2006.

The bill, based on a similar law in New Mexico, died the last four legislative sessions (it passed out of committee in 2005 before stalling). But two Republican votes on the committee represent a major shift for the bill's prospects—and legislators overcoming their moral conflicts with people consuming drugs to look rationally at drug laws.

“I think this is especially promising given that it has bipartisan support,” says Alison Holcomb, drug policy director for the ACLU of Washington, which has been supporting the bill. “That means Republicans … get that this is about saving lives, and saving lives is not a partisan issue.” Only state senator Pam Roach (R-31) voted against the bill. Kudos to senator Adam Kline (D-37), chair of the senate judiciary committee, and senator Rosa Franklin (D-29), the bill's prime sponsor, for pushing this in a year when legislators are tormented by budget cuts.

Tomorrow the state house's public safety committee will consider a similar bill.