By a 7-4 vote Tuesday, a state Senate committee approved a bill that would permit counties and towns to set aside a percentage of their public contracts for companies that employ ex-cons.
The bill's sponsor, Democratic state Sen. Sandra Cunningham of Hudson County, told The Star-Ledger of Newark and The Record's Statehouse Bureau it's very difficult for those who made a mistake in life and were incarcerated to find work.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Paul Sarlo says they could end up back in prison without opportunities.
Republican Sen. Michael Doherty of Warren County says he can't support putting former inmates ahead of other citizens.
The legislation is part of a package of bills that Democrats are pushing to boost job creation.