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GRAPEVINE: Will paid sick leave end up at the ballot box?

Two Democratic lawmakers and a supportive coalition launched their campaign for statewide mandatory paid sick leave last week.

It's already starting to sound a whole lot like last summer's minimum wage fight.

In one corner we have Democrats in the Legislature standing beside advocates praising the idea as the morally "right thing to do."

In the other there are the business groups lobbying hard to fight the bill in the name of free enterprise and the fear that overregulation and high labor costs might send employers packing for the greener pastures of New York and Pennsylvania.

Sounding familiar? It should.

After Gov. Chris Christie conditionally vetoed the Legislature's minimum wage increase last January, Democrats sent it to the ballot.

In the nine months that ensued, both sides formed coalitions to aggressively push their platforms on the issue. In the end, the voters had their say and chose to support a constitutional amendment to raise the wage by $1 to $8.25 and tie all future increases to the consumer price index.

Paid sick leave could easily go the same way if a Democratically led Legislature moves the bill and it meets Christie's veto pen, some sources say.

Asked last week about the prospect of taking the issue to the ballot box, Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D-Voorhees), the bill's sponsor, said she hopes it won't get to that point.

One source says that, as of right now, business groups are still working behind the scenes to fight the legislation but need to "regroup and figure out" what they want to do with the issue.

If paid sick leave were to go to the ballot, another source says it "definitely would be a concern" for bill opponents because, like the minimum wage fight, getting voters to push back against the idea would require getting a majority to reject what may seem like a popular idea on the surface.

"On its face, it seems very easy to evaluate," one source said of the issue.

The 'skeleton of Parsippany' finally may be getting a body

The four-story building has long been known as "the skeleton of Parsippany," stemming from its unfinished steel frame that lingered on Route 46 for some 20 years.

But the site known as the InterPark Office Campus reportedly is finding new life under the auspices of a developer that acquired it seven years ago. Sources say the firm, locally based Commercial Realty Group, has landed a deal with technology company IMS Health.

The size of the lease is unclear, but the building encompasses 76,000 square feet, part of a site that has long called for two office buildings near the nexus of I-80 and I-287.

IMS is reportedly moving from another space in Parsippany, but the deal is good news for the InterPark Campus after years of troubled history.

Its original owner started construction on the first building in the late 1980s, only to stop in 1991 because of the ensuing recession.

The skeleton then sat unfinished for the next two decades, leaving an eyesore that greeted drivers entering Morris County. Commercial Realty acquired the site in 2007 — with another recession was setting in but embarked on a $50 million project to complete the building.

The second phase of the project calls for a 109,000-square-foot building.

Grapevine reports on the behind-the-scenes buzz in the business community. Contact Editor Tom Bergeron at tomb@njbiz.com.

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