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Post-Sandy, NJ Legislature Gets Back To Work [AUDIO]

The Garden State’s Legislature hit the ‘pause’ button after super-storm Sandy so State Senators and Assembly members could stay in their districts and help their constituents rebuild and recover.

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In what may be a sign that things are getting back to normal in post-Sandy New Jersey, Senate President Steve Sweeney says it’s time for lawmakers to head back to Trenton because there’s a lot to do before we close the books on 2012.

“The economy is still the thing that is most troubling in this state,” explains Sweeney. “Getting a jobs package together and on the Governor’s desk is very important.”

Governor Chris Christie vetoed the last round of Democrat-sponsored jobs bills, but Sweeney is hoping to modify some of the measures so that they are amenable to the Governor. He says, “I just don’t like to throw bills on the Governor’s desk that have no chance of being signed, but we’ve got some things that need to get done now…..I’m looking at putting bills on the Governor’s desk that actually have an impact on the economy and putting people back to work.”

Sweeney is also hoping to advance legislation to limit payouts to public employees for their unused sick and vacation days. The legislature passed a bill to cap the payouts at $15,000, but Christie vetoed it. Lawmakers then approved a measure with a $7,500 limit. The Governor vetoed that one too. He wants the payouts eliminated entirely.

Christie has repeatedly said, “Zero means zero.”

Christie and Sweeney are on the same page when it comes to another one of the Senate President’s priorities. Sweeney explains, “My shared services effort I think is getting closer. We’re working with the Assembly and the Governor. I really hope we get the shared services bill done.”

For some time, Sweeney has been pushing a bill that would require New Jersey’s Local Unit Alignment, Reorganization, and Consolidation Commission (LUARCC) to study local government units (county government, municipal government, school districts) to determine where taxpayer dollars could be saved through sharing of services. If the study shows that a savings can be realized through sharing that service in one or more local governments, the question of whether to do so or not would be put to a public referendum in all municipalities involved. If the towns involved fail to pass the proposal, they would be subject to losing state aid in the amount equal to what they would have saved had they shared the service. If one town approves it but another denies it, only the town that denied it would lose aid.

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