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GRAPEVINE: Formula One stalls again, "ban-the-box" bill and more

For weeks, word had been that Gov. Chris Christie would look to package his calling for bail reform with the signing of the Opportunity to Compete Act, or “ban-the-box.”

The bill, championed by state Sen. Sandra Cunningham (D-Jersey City), would limit employers from performing criminal background checks on applicants until after an initial interview has taken place. It now sits on Christie's desk.

Business groups had opposed the measure, proposing instead that the legislation would be better served if the “box” were to be completely removed from the process.

But when Christie called a special session last week urging legislators to act on bail reform, nothing was to be said about “ban-the-box.”

“It's been radio silence on what's going to happen with that bill,” said one source.

The governor is still within his 45-day timeframe for signing or vetoing a measure, but initial word had been that the issue would have been put to rest by now.

“Trenton works in mysterious ways,” the source said.

Paid sick-leave on deck for fall

The statewide fight over paid sick-leave seems to come and go in waves.

One minute, it's hot, with lawmakers clamoring for passage with groups of supporters rallying behind them.

The next — not so much.

Democratic legislators, namely bill sponsors Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D-Voorhees) and state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck), already have led the charge at two statewide campaign launchings in the past three or four months.

But all that excitement appears to have given way to Trenton's summer doldrums.

One source says there have been ongoing discussions, but he expects things to really heat up again in a few months.

“In the fall, that's something that we're probably going to see,” the source said.

Formula 1 hits a wall ... again

There have been two official postponements for the Formula One race slated for North Jersey — and all indications now are that a third is on its way.

That would push the race to 2016, and some may be wondering if the race will happen at all. No one can say for sure, but it doesn't seem to have gotten any easier for organizers.

And the main roadblock remains the same.

“It's money,” one source said. “It's a very front end-driven investment.”

Especially when you consider that the event is tied to a 15-year contract, one that would require annual repaving and construction to set up the grandstand and other facilities for a course that would wind through the roads of Weehawken and West New York. Then there's the massive sum needed to secure the rights with Formula One, whatever that may be.

It's tough to understate the payoff, both financially and in terms of prestige. The race would likely draw visitors from around the world and give New Jersey a unique, world-class event with the New York City skyline in the background.

Organizers late last month still hadn't publicly given up on a 2015 debut.

“Our team is dedicated to bringing the inaugural Grand Prix of America at Port Imperial to the New York-New Jersey region as soon as possible,” said Leo Hindery Jr., the group's promoter. “We are currently balancing the sport's own timing demands with other considerations like building our road course without tapping any public funds.”

But it remains to be seen if the group can find the investors it needs in the future.

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

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