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New Jersey State police turn back a large gathering of public employee union members and supporters Monday, June, 20, 2011, in Trenton, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Bucking the state’s powerful public employee unions, the New Jersey Senate on Monday passed a bill requiring sharply higher contributions for health benefits and pensions from more than a half-million government workers, while suspending unions’ ability to bargain over health care.

As a gallery full of raucous union members looked on, the upper chamber moved the legislation with support from Republicans and a few Democrats in a 24-15 vote. It must still get through an Assembly committee, where it was also being considered Monday, and then pass the entire lower house before it reaches the governor’s desk. The full Assembly is scheduled to hear the bill on Thursday.

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