TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — From attempting to clear the way for sports betting in New Jersey to clamping down on the sentencing of sexual assault convicts, Gov. Chris Christie and the Legislature are bidding farewell to 2014 having enacted 82 pieces of legislation.
The year included of partisan points of friction like the Democrat-controlled Legislature's panel to investigate the lane closures at the George Washington Bridge, but lawmakers and the governor found common ground too.
A look at some of the new laws that grabbed headlines:
Republican Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill into law aimed at clearing the way for legalized sports betting in New Jersey. The measure ended New Jersey's prohibition on sports betting, a move intended to bolster the state's case in court. Major sports leagues and the NCAA are fighting New Jersey's efforts, and a judge blocked the new state law, concluding that it violates the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. The measured became law on Oct. 17, but the fight to allow casinos and race tracks to offer sports betting continues.
—JESSICA LUNSFORD ACT
The law imposes mandatory sentencing of 25 years to life in prison for people convicted of sexually assaulting a child under the age of 13, with a mandatory term of 25 years before parole eligibility. The bill was modeled on Florida's Jessica Lunsford Act. Lunsford was a 9-year-old Florida resident who was kidnapped, raped and murdered by a registered sex offender. The bill, signed May 15, took effect immediately.
—CAMERAS IN COP CARS
Christie signed into law a bill that requires every municipal police car purchased or leased in the state and primarily used for traffic stops must have a video recording system. The measure also calls for increasing the fine on people convicted of driving while intoxicated from $100 to $125. The law goes into effect on March 1.
Christie signed off on legislation written by bipartisan group of lawmakers including Democratic Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto on public worker salaries. At issue was the expiration of a 2 percent cap on salary increases awarded during arbitration between public employers and police and fire departments. The bill extended that cap until 2017 and also extended certain deadlines, changing, for example, the amount of time arbitrators have to give decisions from 45 days to 90 days. The law went into effect in June.
The governor signed five related education bills aimed at helping students prepare for the job market. The package, pushed by Prieto, included a measure that creates a grant program in the state Education Department aimed at helping vocational school districts in counties across the state. Another measure requires certificate-granting teacher-prep programs to include lessons on improving students' career readiness. The law took effect Dec. 3.