- Associated Press - Monday, November 9, 2015

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Faced with an impending deadline, Gov. Chris Christie has weighed in on dozens of bills sitting on his desk, including vetoing the Democrat-led Legislature’s bill to reform election law.

Christie, who is seeking the Republican nomination for president, vetoed the measure Monday after earlier criticizing its provisions and vetoing a similar bill in the previous legislative session.

New Jersey’s governor has 45 days from the time legislation passes to act on it or it becomes law, but that clock stops when the chamber where a bill originated is out of session, as the Assembly has been throughout the election season. The Assembly returned Monday, and Christie announced his decisions.

A look at some of the bills he acted on:

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ELECTION LAW OVERHAUL

Under current law, voters may participate early by absentee ballot. The measure would have allowed for early, in-person voting during a two-week window through the Sunday before Election Day.

The legislation would also have enacted automatic voter registration when residents apply for driver’s licenses and authorized preregistration for 17-year-olds, among other measures.

Christie called the overhaul “counterproductive” and said it would cost taxpayers $25 million initially. It would also upend early voting, he said.

Democrats cast the measure as a common-sense overhaul of the state’s 20th-century election system. Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto said he is considering putting the legislation to referendum to enshrine the changes in the state constitution.

Earlier the issue seeped into the presidential campaign arena, where Christie is seeking the Republican nomination.

Christie tussled in June with Hillary Rodham Clinton, who suggested Republicans favor making it harder for people to vote. Christie said she didn’t know what she was talking about.

At the state level, experts say the changes could have swelled voter registration rolls to the benefit of Democrats, who already have a registration advantage in New Jersey.

That’s because eligible voters in New Jersey’s biggest cities have traditionally under-registered and tended to vote Democratic, said Montclair State University political science professor Brigid Harrison.

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ATLANTIC CITY RESCUE

Christie also vetoed most of the measures in a package of bills aimed at helping Atlantic City, including one that would have established a 15-year payment-in-lieu-taxes scheme meant to help stabilize tax payments to the city.

Another he vetoed would have mandated employee benefits for casino workers, diverted investment taxes on casinos into a fund to reduce Atlantic City’s debt, and eliminate the Atlantic City Alliance, which promotes tourism, and use its $30 million annual budget for other ways to help the city.

Christie signed a bill providing extra school aid to the city.

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DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

He conditionally vetoed a bill aimed at making it harder for domestic violence offenders to get a gun, saying the bill effectively restated current law. Instead he proposed enhancing penalties against domestic violence convicts.

The bill would require a person convicted of a domestic violence offense, or who is subject to a domestic violence restraining order, to immediately surrender any firearms or firearm licenses. But under current law, Christie said, people convicted of domestic violence or subject to a domestic violence restraining order are prohibited from purchasing, owning or possessing a firearm, and from having any permits to purchase a firearm.

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STANDARDIZED TESTING

Parents of New Jersey pupils in kindergarten through the second grade won’t have to worry about preparing their kids for any commercially developed standardized tests. Christie signed a bill that would prohibit school districts from contracting with outside organizations to administer them.

The legislation came about as parents, lawmakers, students and others across the state debated the merits of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

Legislators say the law would still allow teachers, principals and boards of education to develop tests for young pupils.

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