A Republican-sponsored bill that seeks to cut the number of unexcused absences New Jersey legislators are allowed before vacating their office was approved by a Senate committee on Thursday.

Governor's Office/Tim Larsen

The bill sponsored by Sen. Tom Kean Jr. cuts the number of unexcused absences to five before a lawmaker's seat is declared vacant. Lawmakers now are allowed 10 unexplained absences.

Kean says the change would help ensure that citizens are represented without interruption and discourage lawmakers from skipping sessions to avoid casting certain votes.

Sen. James Whalen says the bill needs to be amended before it'sfinally enacted to clarify whether lawmakers should be penalized for missing days on which no bills are being voted on.

The bill also was designed to discourage legislators from leaving the state during the session.

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