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Stender, Conaway, Gusciora, DeAngelo, Benson & Giblin Bill to Halt Christie from Eliminating Civil Service Protections Approved by Assembly
(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Linda Stender, Herb Conaway M.D., Reed Gusciora, Wayne DeAngelo, Daniel R. Benson and Thomas Giblin to prohibit adoption of the Civil Service Commission's proposed job banding program because it violates the legislative intent established in New Jersey's constitution was approved Monday by the Assembly.
The measure is the second advanced by the Legislature on the issue. In June, it approved legislation finding the proposed rule is not consistent with legislative intent, but the commission still hasn't withdrawn or revised its proposal.
The new bill (ACR-215) prohibits, in whole, the rule from being adopted and taking effect.
And if, at the time of passage of this concurrent resolution, the Civil Service Commission has adopted the rules, this bill invalidates them, in whole.
"In order to best serve the public, government requires competent professional employees who are hired through a fair process," said Stender (D-Union/Middlesex/Somerset). "Civil service is in place to constitutionally guarantee public access to publicly funded jobs. We must have safeguards in place to ensure that elected or appointed officials do not turn public employment into their own personal hiring agency."
"The people of New Jersey benefit most from public service that is based on knowledge, skills and abilities, the guarantee of equal employment opportunities and the protection from political coercion and the sins of discrimination and political cronyism," said Conaway (D-Burlington). "These changes threaten to undermine these principles, which were enshrined in our constitution with the approval of the residents of this state."
The sponsors noted that the civil service system in New Jersey, once a statutory creation, gained permanence through its inclusion in the New Jersey Constitution, which provides that appointments and promotions in the civil service system must be made according to merit and fitness, to be ascertained, as far as practicable, by competitive examination.
But on March 18, the state Civil Service Commission published proposed rule changes to establish a new job banding program for positions in both state and local service. The proposed job banding program gives substantial discretion to civil service employers, potentially imperiling or curtailing veterans' preference and advancement opportunities for women, minorities, those with disabilities and those vulnerable to discriminatory practices.
"The current civil service exam process helps reduce discrimination, patronage and cronyism in the selection of candidates for promotions," said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). "The system has been highly effective for years in protecting qualified employees from political retribution and harassment and should not be unilaterally disbanded now."
"The proposed new rule will effectively eliminate promotional examinations for tens of thousands of state and local government positions that are currently subject to a formal exam process," said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "This does a disservice to both hardworking qualified employees, as well as the public they serve should someone with lesser qualifications be given the position."
The proposed changes are not consistent with legislative intent because they violate a number of constitutional edicts, including:
? that employees be selected and advanced on the basis of their relative knowledge, skills and abilities;
? that equal employment opportunities are ensured at all levels of public service to protect career public employees from political coercion;
that a competitive promotional examination process be established; and
? that veterans ranking highest on a promotional certification receive preference.
"As it stands now, our civil service system works to ensure equal employment opportunity at all levels of public service and protect career public employees from political coercion," said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "These are basic principles of fairness that the people of our state approved in our constitution."
"The existing civil service system is designed to ensure that employees are hired and advanced based on their relative knowledge, skills and abilities," said Giblin (D-Essex/Passaic). "This was the clear intent of the legislature when this constitutional amendment was put forth years ago and the people gave it their seal of approval. To let this be undone by some backroom bureaucracy is clearly a violation of legislative intent."
Under the proposed rule change, the appeal process would also be unavailable to employees who have not been selected for an advancement appointment under the proposed job banding program. Instead, a less protective grievance appeal procedure would be used.
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