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New Jersey is poised to become the third state in the nation to guarantee employees paid leave to care for a newborn or a sick relative.

The new family leave bill passed the State Senate on March 3, and at this writing is expected to be approved by the Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Jon Corzine.

Workers will receive up to six weeks of leave with pay at a rate of two-thirds of their salaries, up to a maximum of $524 per week. Payroll deductions on every worker in the state of up to 64 cents per week, or $33 per year, will finance the leave.

The Senate vote came just as new economic data was released, showing New Jersey had lost 9,500 jobs in January, the most of any state.

State Sen. Kevin O’Toole approved of the concept but objected to the cost. “We have the heart for it,” O’Toole said. “We don’t have the wallet for it.”

State Attorney General Anne Milgram expressed concern that the bill might leave small businesses susceptible to lawsuits, as it allows businesses with fewer than 50 employees to tell workers who use the leave that their jobs are not guaranteed.

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