What’s on the 2015 New Jersey legislative agenda?
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — With the Assembly heading into an election year and Republican Gov. Chris Christie expected to announce a decision on a possible White House run, New Jersey lawmakers have a narrow window to pursue significant legislation before campaigning kicks into high gear.
Here's a look at some issues that will get top billing in the statehouse:
TRANSPORTATION TRUST FUND
The $1.26 billion fund for infrastructure will take top billing on the legislative agenda. Without an agreement between the Democrat-controlled Legislature and Christie, funds for roads, bridges and other new projects will come to a halt. Christie, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto last met Dec. 19 to discuss a way forward. Sweeney and Prieto have embraced the need for more revenue through higher taxes. Christie has generally opposed tax increases but has said all options are on the table in this case.
Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed reform legislation passed unanimously in both states, but lawmakers in New Jersey are vowing to raise the issue again.
Prieto and Sweeney say they won't let the vetoes stop them from pursuing further reforms, and Sweeney is planning to hold an override vote in mid-January. But state Sen. Loretta Weinberg said it's unlikely to succeed because Republicans have been reluctant to rebuke the governor, and without them the override fails.
DEATH WITH DIGNITY
A bill that would allow doctors to prescribe life-ending medication to terminally ill people who request it already passed the Assembly and is headed for the floor in the Senate. State Sen. Joe Vitale said recently he doesn't think the support yet exists for the measure to pass there. Dozens of residents, advocates and opponents appeared at a daylong hearing when a Senate committee recently considered the bill. Opponents say it violates their religious faith and raises questions about whether the ill could be unduly influenced to end their lives. Supporters say the measure gives the terminally ill a humane way to end their lives according to their wishes.
PAID SICK LEAVE
A bill that would require businesses in the state to let employees earn paid sick time could land on Christie's desk in 2015. The measures would let workers accrue one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked. Despite broad support among Democrats in the Legislature, Christie has signaled he thinks the policy could make New Jersey less competitive and likely wouldn't sign it. The bill is headed for a vote on the Assembly floor but is still in committee in the Senate.
Christie conditionally vetoed a bill that would ban the sale of personal hygiene products that contain microbeads, which are small enough to escape water filtration systems and could damage the environment. Christie suggested changing the bill's $10,000 fine to $500. Unwitting retailers who continue to keep the items on their shelves without realizing it could be subject to large fines, Christie argued. Lawmakers are discussing when to vote on the governor's changes.
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.