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Photo by Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe

State Supreme Court sides with legislators on Christie job-banding rule

Ruling bolsters legislative power

By Nikita Biryukov, August 08 2018 4:43 pm

The New Jersey Supreme Court sided with unions and the legislature on Wednesday when it ruled that the continued enforcement of a job-banding rule imposed by former Gov. Chris Christie through executive action despite invalidation at the hands of the legislature was unconstitutional.

“Both the Assembly and State Senate passed resolutions declaring Christie’s ridiculous rule not within the intent of the law and declaring it void, but the Christie Administration implemented it anyway,” said Communications Workers of America New Jersey Director Hetty Rosenstein, adding later: “So ends yet another wasteful and sleazy Christie scheme.”

Christie’s rule grouped certain governmental positions together and allowed employees to move from one to another without taking tests.

The legislature, then led by Senate President Steve Sweeney and former Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, passed resolutions invalidating the law under the Legislative Review Clause of the state constitution.

Wednesday’s decision won laurels from Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, among others.

“The attempt by the former Christie administration to sidestep the Legislature when promoting employees went against the intent of the Legislature as expressed in the Civil Service Act and was brazenly unconstitutional,” Coughlin said in a statement. “I’m glad that the NJ Supreme Court agreed. If the original rule had continued, it would be a good way to show favoritism to certain employees over qualified employees.”

While Sweeney also lauded the decision on those grounds, he noted in particular the court’s affirmation of the Legislative Review Clause.

The use of the clause, which was inserted into the constitution in 1992, was the first since its implementation, and the decision provides Sweeney, or whoever leads the legislature in the future, another tool in fights with the governor.

“The ruling reaffirms the balance of power that is vital to democracy and it reinforces the basic principle that the laws of New Jersey must be honored by the executive branch of government,” Sweeney said in his statement. “It demonstrates once again that departments and agencies cannot ignore or invalidate the Legislature’s intent.”

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