- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 16, 2015

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey lawmakers are set to wrap up voting in 2015 with a whirlwind session including about 70 measures in the Senate and Assembly, from establishing a state butterfly to challenging Gov. Chris Christie’s veto of a bill on guns and mental health.

Both chambers will hold their last voting sessions of the year on Thursday.

Absent from the agenda is a vote on how to pay for the transportation trust fund, which pays for infrastructure work and is expected to go broke in the new year. There’s a consensus that the fund’s dire situation is among the biggest troubles facing New Jersey, but there’s no agreement over how to move forward.

Instead, the Assembly could make history by overriding Christie’s veto for the first time. It’s the chamber’s second attempt since Dec. 3 when the vote was postponed. The Senate has already approved the override - also a first.

At issue is a bill that requires people seeking to clear a mental health record in order to buy a firearm to first notify law enforcement. Christie, a Republican presidential candidate, conditionally vetoed the bill, which initially passed the Legislature unanimously. He said he wants to see a more comprehensive approach for involuntary commitment of people with mental illness who could become dangerous if left untreated. He also called for evaluating people on a range of standards including whether they comply with their treatment.

Democrats say Christie’s criticisms miss the point of the bill, which they say was requested by judicial officials who review requests to expunge records. It’s not about a comprehensive approach to guns and mental health, they say, but a narrow measure to address a specific problem.

Other issues that are set for votes Thursday include:

- An Assembly vote on Christie’s recommendations on three bills aimed at helping Atlantic City and its struggling casinos.

- A Senate vote on a measure requiring employers to offer workers earned sick leave. The measure has been a lightning rod, with business leaders criticizing it as onerous and liberal organizations praising it as needed and fair. The Assembly has not taken the bill up yet, and is not scheduled to Thursday.

Legislative committees are also considering a handful of proposed constitutional amendments that could end up on the 2016 ballot as referendum questions, including:

- Senate and Assembly proposals to establish casinos in northern New Jersey

- Requiring the state to make quarterly public pension payments

- Using all fuel tax proceeds solely for transportation projects.

Lawmakers will also vote on establishing the black swallowtail butterfly as the state butterfly, banning the trade of big game trophy animals, like Cecil the lion, whose death prompted protests over the summer, and providing for the state to amend birth certificates for transgender people, a bill Christie has previously vetoed.

Thursday is the last scheduled voting session of the year, but lawmakers could still take up additional measures until Jan. 11 when the current legislative session ends.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide