Assembly Appropriations Committee hears bills on pay equity, earned sick leave

Bills considered on Thursday went before the Assembly Appropriations Committee. That’s the last stop before legislation gets a full vote, so lawmakers can consider the financial implications. Several key items passed unanimously, including the pay equity bill. That’s considered a big victory for advocates who tried to get this through several times during the Christie administration.

It makes it illegal for employers to pay women less for doing substantially similar work, and receive up to six years in back pay. Also released today, the long talked about earned sick leave bill was also released Thursday. That’s not been without controversy. The Assembly bill was recently revamped to get business organizations on board, though not without the opposition of those who’ve been pushing it all along.

“There have been some exclusions that have been injected into the Assembly side, or the Assembly version of the bill, that we still find troubling. Namely that it’s possible that health care professionals who are at the front lines of providing health and protecting the public health would somehow not be able to earn the ability to stay home and care for themselves,” said Analilia Mejia, executive director of New Jersey Working Families.

“Now, employers just have more control over the situation than they did before because many employers already have policies, and their policies today now will be taken into consideration for satisfying the requirements,” said Michele Siekerka, president and CEO of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association.

There are a couple of other bills to watch, particularly around gun safety, which have been getting more attention in light of the recent school shootings. One restricts the maximum capacity of ammunition magazines to 10 rounds. Another prevents anyone from having ammunition with the capability of penetrating body armor, of course that’s aimed at protecting law enforcement. And yet another bill keeps firearms out of the hands of those who are deemed dangerous or a threat. All of those were released Thursday.

The big day to watch is Monday when both the Senate and Assembly will hold a full voting session. A lot of these items being considered will direct the shape that this legislative session will take under the new governor.

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