- - Thursday, June 16, 2011


Benefits bill advances over labor objections

TRENTON — A bill requiring 500,000 public workers in New Jersey to shoulder a significantly larger share of the costs for their health care and pension benefits and take the issue off the bargaining table has advanced in the Legislature over staunch objections from organized labor.

The vote by the Senate Budget Committee on Thursday was 9-4. The full Senate is scheduled to vote next week.

The panel heard more than four hours of testimony Thursday, mostly from union leaders urging Democratic legislators to reject the measure. The vote was split 4-4 among Democrats. More than 2,000 protested outside the Statehouse.

The bill legislates health care changes that typically are bargained. It bases contributions to health benefits on employee income. Pension contributions also would rise.


Farm subsidy cuts rejected in spending bill

The Republican-led House voted to slash domestic and international food aid Thursday while rejecting cuts to farm subsidies.

A spending bill to fund the nation’s food and farm programs would cut the Women, Infants and Children program, which offers food aid and educational support for low-income mothers and their children, by $868 million, or 13 percent. An international food assistance program that provides emergency aid and agricultural development would drop by more than $450 million, one-third of the program’s budget. The legislation passed 217-203.

The bill would trim the Food and Drug Administration’s $2.5 billion budget by almost 12 percent, straining the agency’s ability to implement a new food safety law signed by President Obama this year. Democratic attempts to restore some of the food safety money were rejected.


Extending term of FBI chief OK’d by panel

The Senate Judiciary Committee has advanced legislation to extend the term of FBI Director Robert Mueller for two years.

The extension needs approval from both houses of Congress. It was requested by President Obama and supported by several major law enforcement organizations. The FBI director’s term is limited by law to 10 years, and Congress must act before Aug. 3.

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