by The Associated Press Tuesday January 01, 2008, 9:43 AM New Jersey would become the first northern state and the fifth state overall to apologize for slavery under a measure to be considered this week by state lawmakers. "This is not too much to ask of the state of New Jersey," said Assemblyman William Payne, who sponsors the bill. "All that is being requested of New Jersey is to say three simple words: We are sorry." Legislators in Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia have issued formal slavery apologies. "If former Confederate states can take action like this, why can't a northeast state like New Jersey?" asked Payne, D-Essex. But Republican lawmakers wonder if it would be relevant. "Who living today is guilty of slave holding and thus capable of apologizing for the offense?" asked Assemblyman Richard Merkt, R-Morris. "And who living today is a former slave and thus capable of accepting the apology? So how is a real apology even remotely possible, much less meaningful, given the long absence of both oppressor and victim?" Payne, D-Essex, said a New Jersey apology would comfort black residents and set an example for other states. The measure is set for a Thursday hearing by the Assembly Appropriations Committee. It hasn't received Senate consideration but must be adopted by Tuesday when the legislative session expires.