Assembly Approves Democratic Resolution to Again Invalidate Christie Effort to Dismantle Civil Service

Legislation Assembly Democrats Linda Stender, Reed Gusciora, Herb Conaway, Timothy Eustace, Daniel Benson and Wayne DeAngelo sponsored to once again invalidate Gov. Chris Christie’s efforts to dismantle Civil Service rules that protect New Jersey from corruption and cronyism was approved 46-28-0 Thursday by the General Assembly.

The concurrent resolution (ACR-192) invalidates the Civil Service Commission’s proposed rule establishing a job banding program. The resolution also makes amendments to that rule, including the amendment the commission filed with the Office of Administrative Law on July 16, null and void.

“Gov. Christie and his Civil Service Commission can keep trying to amend the rule as part of their campaign to destroy Civil Service and all the good it’s done for New Jersey taxpayers, but we’re not going to give up, either,” said Stender (D-Union/Middlesex/Somerset). “The new rule is contrary to the spirit, intent and plain meaning of the provision in the New Jersey Constitution that requires promotions of public employees to be based on merit and fitness, to be ascertained, as far as practicable, by competitive examination.”

“If the administration is allowed to do away with civil service exams in favor of job banding, a hardworking employee’s job performance and aptitude may be largely ignored,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “This will open the door for nepotism and cronyism, allowing a manager to promote anyone they wish, regardless of the individual’s job performance.”

“The civil service system ensures that employees are selected and advanced on the basis of their relative knowledge, skills and abilities,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “This ensures equal employment opportunity at all levels of public service and protects career public employees from political coercion. We can’t allow politics to trump proficiency in the hiring process.”

“The proposed amendments would make only minor changes and are not responsive to the legislature’s finding that job banding is not consistent with legislative intent as expressed in the language of the Civil Service Act,” said Conaway (D-Burlington). “So, unfortunately, we have to go through this process again, because Gov. Christie just doesn’t get it.”

“We have promised our citizens and workforce a transparent and honest government. Permitting job banding breaks that promise,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “New Jersey’s public workforce deserves a system that awards jobs to the most qualified candidates, not more patronage hiring.”

“In addition to displaying utter disregard for the state constitution, job banding goes against the all-American notion that employees who demonstrate the most skills and the best work ethic ought to get ahead,” said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “Taxpayers and public workers alike deserve a system based on merit, not favoritism.”

Pursuant to Article V, Section IV, paragraph 6 of the New Jersey Constitution, the legislature may review any rule adopted or proposed by an administrative agency, such as the Civil Service Commission, to determine if it is consistent with legislative intent. The legislature may invalidate an adopted rule or prohibit the adoption of a proposed rule if it finds that the rule is not consistent with legislative intent.

Upon finding that a rule is inconsistent with legislative intent, the legislature shall present its findings in the form of a concurrent resolution to the governor and the head of the agency that promulgated, or plans to promulgate, the rule. The agency then shall have 30 days to amend or withdraw the rule.

If the agency does not amend or withdraw the rule, the constitution authorizes the legislature to invalidate or prohibit the adoption of the rule, following 1) a public hearing on the matter, 2) the placement of a transcript of the hearing on the desks of the members of each house of the legislature in an open meeting followed by the passage of at least 20 calendar days, and 3) a vote of a majority of the authorized membership of each house in favor of a concurrent resolution invalidating or prohibiting the adoption of the rule.

In this case, the Civil Service Commission adopted a new rule, entitled “Job Banding Program,” which was adopted by the commission at its May 7 meeting and on June 2 took effect. The Civil Service Commission on July 16 approved proposed amendments to the job banding rule.

The resolution remains under consideration in the Senate.