Bevy of bills awaits New Jersey lawmakers as legislative sessions end

Gov. Christie heads to his car after touring the Food Bank of South Jersey in Pennsauken. Regarding the legislative session, he said, "I'm not all that worried or concerned about [the Legislature's pace], because I can tell you, we're having really productive conversations . . . with legislative leaders behind the scenes."
Gov. Christie heads to his car after touring the Food Bank of South Jersey in Pennsauken. Regarding the legislative session, he said, "I'm not all that worried or concerned about [the Legislature's pace], because I can tell you, we're having really productive conversations . . . with legislative leaders behind the scenes." (ED HILLE / Staff Photographer)
Posted: December 15, 2011

TRENTON - Sports betting, tanning restrictions, municipal aid restoration, and tiger registration will be on the Legislature's agenda Thursday when the Assembly and Senate hold their final voting sessions of 2011.

Lawmakers in both houses are scheduled to vote on dozens of bills before recessing until January.

The agendas contain few of the controversial issues over which Republican Gov. Christie and Democratic legislative leaders have sparred.

Earlier this year, the governor sought passage of bills by the end of the year to revamp public education and give more choices to inner-city children in failing schools. More recently, he has flogged Democratic lawmakers for failing to end sick-time payouts for public workers. Christie refused to accept a proposal to cap the amount at $7,500.

But at a news conference Wednesday in Pennsauken, Christie, who often mocks the Legislature's agendas as frivolous, declined to take any shots.

"I'm not all that worried or concerned about [the Legislature's pace], because I can tell you, we're having really productive conversations . . . with legislative leaders behind the scenes," said Christie, adding that he had met with Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) earlier in the day.

"We're working hard to get things done," the governor said.

Christie said this year's lame-duck session was not as significant as the one in the last election year because little is changing in Trenton leadership. Two years ago, Christie had triumphed over Democratic Gov. Jon S. Corzine, Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts was retiring, and Senate President Richard Codey had just been toppled by Sweeney.

The attitude then was "great fear and loathing in the Legislature about the evil Republican coming to town, so let's get as much stuff done as we possibly can before he gets here and can veto it," Christie said Wednesday.

This time, Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D., Essex), and Christie will continue in their positions when the next legislative session starts Jan. 10, and the composition of the Legislature will change little.

Still, Thursday's schedule offers a full agenda for legislators, while the governor travels to New Brunswick to continue to promote eliminating sick-day payouts.

Both the Senate and Assembly will vote on legislation allowing sports betting after sponsors said they would remove provisions permitting residents to bet from their computers or cell phones. In November, New Jersey voters approved a ballot question to amend the constitution to allow sports betting if the state wins a legal challenge to overturn a federal ban.

The Senate is poised to grant final approval to a bill to restore $139 million in transitional aid to fiscally distressed cities such as Camden and add $1.5 million for the Department of Community Affairs to oversee the program.

The Assembly will vote on whether to ban minors from using indoor tanning beds.

Both houses will decide on bills that would expand domestic violence restraining orders to protect family pets.

The Senate will vote on "Caylee's Law," which criminalizes the failure to report the disappearance of a child within 24 hours.

A bill to move school board elections to November - aimed at saving taxpayer money and increasing voter turnout - will receive a hearing before the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee after clearing an Assembly panel last week.

And the Senate will vote on a bill to create a registration system and reporting requirements for owners of tigers to ensure that the animals in New Jersey are not used in the illegal trade of tigers or tiger body parts.


Contact staff writer Maya Rao at 609-989-8990, mrao@phillynews.com, or on Twitter @Mrao_Inquirer.

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