Christie Administration's Civil Service Changes Passed over Legislature's Objection
Ignoring a resolution passed by the state Legislature to block the plan, a state board today adopted a series of changes Gov. Chris Christie's administration proposed to the rules governing how thousands of state workers are hired, promoted, and fired.
The New Jersey Civil Service Commission voted unanimously to institute the new regulations, which officials say will streamline promotions, and save the state money.
In January, both houses of the Democratic-controlled Legislature voted along party lines to pass a resolution prohibiting the Republican governor's changes. The resolution said the alterations violate New Jersey's constitution and would make it easier for political patronage and discrimination to seep into government hiring practices.
But Robert M. Czech, the commission's chairman, said the rules adopted today had already been amended to address lawmakers' concerns before the Legislature finalized the ban.
"Contrary to the constitutional process, the legislature ignored the amendments, and voted to invalidate," Czech said.
He added that despite critics' fears, "merit and fitness are at the core" of the new regulations.
"Our adoption document fully addresses the basis for the rules and the comments received," Czech said.
Still, Democratic lawmakers today expressed outrage that the commission — a board in which all members are appointed by the governor — moved forward despite their resolution.
State Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) said he was "very disturbed" by the action. State Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) called it "deplorable" and asked the state office of Administration Law not to accept the rules.
"We cannot allow (the commission) to singlehandedly strip New Jersey's workers of the civil service rights and protections which provide a fair process for hiring, firing, and promotions that help safeguard against corruption, favoritism, and cronyism," Sweeney said. "The Legislature, in a landmark move, voted to stop these rule changes from being implemented, yet the commission seems to believe they can ignore the Legislature."