We'd sure like to side with state Sen. Peter Barnes, D-Middlesex, who has introduced a bill prohibiting employers from docking employees who don't show for work during an official state of emergency declared by the governor or a municipality.

Barnes' heart is certainly in the right place.

The bill would forbid employers from requiring employees to use vacation, sick or personal time when they can't get to work during a state of emergency.

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As Barnes notes, these emergencies, usually declared during extreme weather events, are put into effect when the roads are unsafe and traveling is dangerous - and usually include a message from the governor advising people to stay home unless absolutely necessary.

But sorry ... a state law giving workers a free pass to stay home during a snowstorm seems like legislative overreach to us.

It's certainly not fair to the employees who do suck it up and make it in to work - and who may have to work harder because some of their fellow employees didn't show.

And while Barnes' bill makes an exception for public-safety personnel, they aren't the only people whose work can be considered crucial. We don't know about you, but when the snow is falling and the wind is blowing and the entire world seems shut down, it certainly is nice to see the lights on at the corner Wawa.

There's another problem, too - as South Jersey residents learned on Feb. 5, when the governor declared a state of emergency.

Courts, motor-vehicle offices and other state agencies were shut down all over the state. But the storm that prompted this emergency declaration brought only minor rain to South Jersey - and left people irked that they couldn't register a car or take care of other business. Imagine if that same unnecessary state of emergency allowed every private-sector employee in South Jersey to stay home, too.

If for no other reason, Barnes' proposal is a bad idea because of the imperfect system for declaring states of emergency. The governor should be able to declare emergencies by region. It is not unusual for a storm to seriously affect only one part of the state.

Look, we understand that it can be difficult - and perhaps dangerous - for some people to get to work in a storm. They may have a long commute. They may have a vehicle that is not up to the task. And we would hope that their employers would be sensitive to this problem and flexible enough to accommodate them.

But let's leave this to workers and their bosses to work out. Barnes' proposal would seem to create more problems than it solves.

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