We’re the state with the highest rate of unemployment in the region – but it comes as a surprise that the Governor has vetoed a bill that would prohibit prospective employers from turning down job applicants simply because they’re unemployed.

I find this kind of ironic in that he recently signed into law the “ban the box” legislation or - as it’s known officially as the “Opportunity to Compete” act - which would prohibit employers from asking prospective employees if they’ve ever been convicted of a crime on their first interview.

The reasoning behind the legislation was to give those previously convicted of a crime the ability to get back on their feet and not become part of the endless cycle of returning to a life of crime.

So this veto has some scratching their heads.

If it’s so important to reduce the percentage of unemployed in the state, especially given his possible run for the presidency – then why allow employers to dismiss the unemployed just because they’re unemployed?

Christie in his veto message Friday said bill S-1440 would "do nothing to improve the lives of unemployed New Jerseyans, but rather will drive up the cost of doing business in our state'' by exposing "employers to additional legal proceedings.'' Christie didn't specify what kind of legal proceedings.

"I agree with the sponsors that employers should be encouraged to hire the best-qualified applicants regardless of their unemployment history. That is why in 2011 I signed legislation into law that bars employers from stating in employment advertisements that the unemployed need not apply,'' he said.

Bill sponsor Sen. Peter Barnes, D-Middlesex, said Christie's veto showed "that the governor chose once again to not stand with the workers of New Jersey.''

"It's clear that many employers look negatively upon those who have been out of work for long periods of time, often thinking of them as lazy or incompetent to do the job. But we know that isn't true and these individuals should not be subject to this generalization or discrimination,'' Barnes said.

Huh! He signed into law banning employers from advertising that the unemployed need not apply, but vetoes this legislation?

I might be able to concede his point in that this bill could have the effect of driving up the cost of doing business in New Jersey.

Emphasis on “could have!” How that is, though, he won’t say.

But if you’re allowing those who’ve been previously convicted of a crime to compete in the job market, doesn’t it make sense to allow those who’ve been unemployed – no matter how long the time – to compete as well.

Me thinks he speaks (or signs) with forked pen!

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