- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 2, 2015

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - A report finds that the battle over whether New Jersey should require businesses to offer workers paid sick leave was the most heavily lobbied in the state last year.

And the debate is likely not over yet.

The state Election Law Enforcement Commission found that 69 groups hired lobbyists on the topic and those lobbyists reported 294 contacts with state agencies in 2014. Both the number of groups and the number of contacts were the highest of any issue.

The reports do not say how much was spent lobbying each topic.

There’s been a major push for paid sick leave across the country. It’s already required in a handful of New Jersey municipalities. But the only states to have adopted laws are Connecticut, Massachusetts and California; the laws take effect July 1 in the latter two.

Unions and liberal groups are pushing for the laws while many business groups oppose them.

Twenty-seven groups opposed the paid leave requirement, 19 favored it and 23 others were monitoring it without taking an official position.

Bills on the issue have not come up for votes of either full chamber of the Legislature, though an Assembly committee did adopt it.

It’s expected that if New Jersey’s Democrat-controlled Legislature passes a law, it would be vetoed by Republican Gov. Chris Christie.

Other issues that received intense lobbying in 2014 included the state budget - the subject of an annual debate

Others include a bill to require government contractors to use U.S.-made products and employment rights for ex-offenders.

Lawmakers adopted the U.S.-made products law, but Christie vetoed it. The governor signed ex-offenders legislation, and it took effect earlier this year.

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