NJ.com- The next five weeks are the last chance Republican Gov. Chris Christie has to negotiate — or argue — with the Democrat-controlled state Legislature to enact laws in New Jersey.
Welcome to "lame duck," the month before Christie leaves office Jan. 16 and Democrat Phil Murphy is sworn in to succeed him.
It's the final time Christie can push through legislation to affect change in the Garden State or veto bills he disagrees with. It's also the final time Democrats can engage in horse-trading with Christie to install their own initiatives — or fight him on ones they oppose.
Here's a look at what bills may become law and what battles may break out in the coming days:
1. Arbitration cap extension
It's been one of the biggest mysteries in New Jersey politics the last few months: Will Democrats support extending a law set to expire at the end of the year that caps the raises that police and fire unions can win in arbitration at 2 percent?
Christie and other Republicans say the cap has kept the state's sky-high property taxes in check, and Christie has vowed to sign the extension if it comes to his desk.
Meanwhile, the Christie-appointed members of a task force on the matter released an interim report in September saying the cap has saved New Jersey taxpayers $530 million since it became law in 2010, Christie's first year in office.
But the Democratic-appointed labor leaders on the panel didn't sign off on the report. Murphy — who has broad union support — and other Democrats say it's only fair they wait for the group's final report to make an informed decision. Christie has called Murphy a "coward" for not taking a stance sooner.
Sources who asked for anonymity to speak candidly say the cap could be one of the biggest things Christie seeks in lame duck, but it's still uncertain whether Democrats will vote on the issue.
"I have a feeling we’re not going to do that right now," said state Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen.
2. Amazon tax breaks
Amazon is looking for a place to build its new headquarters, and cities and states across the U.S. are clamoring to lure the online retailer.
New Jersey's bid? Christie and Democrats agreed to give Amazon $5 billion in tax credits to choose the Garden State — and bring more than 50,000 jobs to the state. Christie announced Newark is the preferred location.
State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, said it's a strong possibility that the issue will be taken up in lame duck because "Amazon wants to see the bill passed."
It makes sense to work it out while Christie is still governor. Murphy said he is in favor of Amazon coming here, but he has not signed on to the tax credits.
3. One last override attempt
In his eight years as governor, Christie has never seen one of his vetoes get overridden by the Legislature.
That's largely because of Republican lawmakers' loyalty to the governor, with many going as far as voting against overrides of bills they once supported.
But the state Senate may make one more attempt — on Christie's veto of a bill to improve the safety of oil trains.
Weinberg, the measure's main sponsor, said the override's success may depend on whether Republicans will continue to support Christie now that his approval rating is the lowest of any governor in state history.
"Maybe they don't want to ruin his perfect record," Weinberg said. "Or maybe they'll enjoy ruining it? I have no idea."
Christie also has the power to appoint people to key positions across the state, and some sources say that may be where the governor makes his largest impact in his final days.
On Thursday, Christie nominated one of his top advisers, Mike DuHaime, to serve on the Rutgers University board of Trustees. DuHaime is an adjunct professor at the state school in New Brunswick.
Meanwhile, Christie nominated Kevin McCabe, the Middlesex County Democratic Party chairman and a former state labor commissioner, to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey — the board that oversees bridges, tunnels, airports, and seaports along the Hudson River.
Both nominations still need to be approved by the state Senate. Sweeney said the full Senate is expected to sign off on McCabe.
5. 'Bump stock' gun accessory ban
Christie has often vetoed bills that would make New Jersey's already strict gun control laws even tighter. But he said he's open to further regulations on "bump stocks," an accessory that has become part of a national debate since the Las Vegas mass shooting in October.
The devises can be affixed to rifles to make them fire more rapidly, like illegal automatic weapons. Twelve of them were found in the hotel room of the Vegas gunman.
Democrats have a bill that would prohibit the sale and possession of bump stocks in New Jersey. It passed a state Assembly committee on Thursday.
New Jersey would be the second state to ban the devices, after Massachusetts.
6. Sexual assault legislation
As allegations of sexual assault and harassment continue to dominate the news, the Legislature is considering a few bills related to the matter.
One would require the state attorney general to audit untested sexual assault examination kits and report findings to lawmakers.
Another would create a state commission to address sexual assaults at New Jersey's colleges and universities.
And another would require higher education institutions to follow federal guidelines put in place under former President Barack Obama related to sexual assault and harassment. That measure was in response to President Donald Trump's administration rolling back the Obama-era guidelines.
Plus, there could also be votes on bipartisan legislation that would bar employers in the state from having employees sign non-disclosure agreements crafted to cover up sexual harassment or misconduct.
7. Expunging criminal records
Christie said one bill legislative leaders have assured him will pass in lame duck is bipartisan legislation that would make it easier for criminal records to be expunged, helping former prison inmates find work.
The governor said he will sign the bills if they reach his desk.
The package is the result of a deal between the governor and state Sen. Sandra Cunningham, D-Hudson.