Legislation Assemblywoman Linda Stender sponsored to reform and modernize New Jersey’s civil service system to help local government control property taxes was approved by the full Assembly on Monday by a vote of 43 – 32.
“This is a key step toward improving a civil service system that has protected public workers and shielded taxpayers from corruption.” said Stender (D-Union/Middlesex/Somerset). “We are reforming the system to bring in more transparency and efficiency, while maintaining valuable protections of due process for public servants and taxpayers.”
Under the bill (A-3590):
· Civil service examinations would be announced and administered on a continual basis.
· Applications for such examinations would be available using the Internet for completion and for submission and payments of applicable fees.
· Special reemployment eligible lists would not include any employee who has turned down a reemployment opportunity in a position comparable to that from which the employee was laid off or demoted in lieu of layoff.
· Seasonal positions may be established for a period aggregating not more than nine months for certain listed titles in local government service.
· The working test period for local public employees would be extended to 6 months from 3 months.
· Layoff plans, and all accompanying information required by the commission to be provided with the plans, would be posted by the commission on the commission’s website when received and by the appointing authority on the authority’s website when submitted.
· The posting must include the analysis and calculations prepared by the appointing authority to determine the expenditure reductions that will result from the implementation of the layoff plan.
· A public employer and the majority representative of its employees may enter into agreements to avoid or reduce layoffs and such agreement will be binding on the parties.
· No new title in the civil service would be created for six months following the bill’s enactment date.
· An appointing authority submitting a request for the creation of a new title would have to submit a report explaining the need for the request, and such report would be posted on the Internet.
“These changes are designed to create a more flexible and open system while protecting the public from corruption and patronage” Stender said. “Civil service reform is needed, but will not instantly lower property taxes. Nothing can change the fact that this year’s state aid and rebate cuts are already driving up property taxes while millionaires are getting tax breaks.”
The bill also provides that local governments using civil service must negotiate with the majority representative of its employees for the review procedures used before disciplinary action is taken against a permanent employee in the career service or a person serving in a working test period, and for the procedure for the appeal of a disciplinary action.
Current civil service law only permits the state to negotiate such matters with employee representatives. This bill will provide all levels of government with the ability to negotiate layoffs, disciplinary actions, and conditions of employment.
“We have a constitutional obligation to ensure public access to provide for a professional, qualified, competent public workforce,” said Stender. “Ultimately, we need to make sure we maintain an open and fair process.”
Current law also provides that any employee terminated for reasons of economy or efficiency by a local employer providing a service under a shared service agreement will be given a terminal leave payment of not less than a period of one month for each five-year period of past service as an employee with the local employer.
The bill makes this payment an option of the local employer or pursuant to a collective negotiations agreement between the local employer and a majority representative.
Finally, the bill creates a Civil Service Title Reduction Task Force of six members – three representing the governor, the New Jersey League of Municipalities and the New Jersey Association of Counties, and three representing the state and local government employees who are members of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO.
The job of the task force would be to develop a list of titles to be consolidated or abolished by the Civil Service Commission.
The task force’s work should result in a reduction of at least 33 percent from the current number of titles. The task force must submit its list to the commission within 90 days after its first meeting, which must occur within 60 days after the bill’s enactment.
The bill now awaits final approval by the Senate.