- Associated Press - Thursday, December 17, 2015

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey lawmakers ended the last voting session of 2015 with a flurry of votes Thursday on nearly 100 bills, from establishing a state butterfly to requiring businesses to offer workers paid sick leave.

Absent from the agenda was a way to pay for the state’s diminishing transportation trust fund, though legislators advanced a proposed constitutional amendment to require all the state’s fuel taxes be used only for infrastructure.

A handful of bills also head now to Gov. Chris Christie’s desk, including a measure aimed at helping train laid-off casino workers and another that would require licensing for art therapists.

The Democrat-controlled Legislature has one more voting period Jan. 11 before the new session begins. That means legislative leaders have one more opportunity to try to override Christie’s vetoes on several measures as well as advance measures aimed at bailing out Atlantic City.

A closer look at legislation that advanced Thursday, including a bill naming the black swallowtail butterfly the state butterfly:

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PENSION PAYMENTS

A proposed constitutional amendment requiring New Jersey to make quarterly public pension payments was approved by an Assembly committee. The measure could end up on the ballot as a referendum in 2016.

Gov. Chris Christie criticized the proposal at a recent state business event, saying it amounted to a payback by unions who back Democrats.

Proposed amendments move to the ballot if approved by three-fifths of the Legislature in one year or by a simple majority in two legislative years.

Supporters of the amendment say it could save the state $13 billion over time in additional investment income and cuts to the unfunded liability.

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DEDICATED GAS TAX

A proposal that would ask voters to weigh in on whether the state’s gas taxes should be used only for transportation projects was approved by a legislative committee.

The measure seeks to ensure those fuel tax funds are not used to address other problems.

Currently, the state’s 10.5-cent gas tax is earmarked for transportation. But there is no mandate on how to use revenue from a separate 4-cent tax on petroleum products. The proposal also would require that the full 13.5-cent diesel tax is used only for transportation as well. Three cents of it currently is not specifically required to go toward transportation.

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PAID SICK LEAVE

Businesses would be required to provide workers with paid sick leave under a bill approved by the state Senate.

Under the bill, an employee would accrue one hour of earned sick leave for every 30 hours worked.

The measure was opposed by business leaders, who argued it would impose excessive regulations.

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HUMAN MILK BANKS

Human milk banks seeking to operate in New Jersey would be required to register with the state health department under a bill approved by the state Senate.

The Senate passed the measure unanimously Thursday.

The bill also requires that the banks be accredited by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America, a nonprofit group that publishes guidelines on health and safety.

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