As reported by nj.com, with only four days left to file a formal protest, military veterans became the latest group to publicly speak out against the Christie Administration’s proposed changes to the New Jersey Civil Service System. About a dozen veterans joined the more than 100 protestors who packed the Assembly State Government Committee’s public hearing in Trenton today, saying they fear the proposal will make it harder for those who served in the military to land public jobs.
Civil Service rules govern the hiring, promotion, and firing of thousands of public workers across the State. Employees are currently hired and promoted based on examinations. Under the changes, some jobs would be grouped together as part of a “band,” allowing managers to move employees from one position to another without the need for exams. The State says that will streamline promotions and save money.
However, opponents claim that the changes would lead to favoritism, political patronage, and discrimination against blacks, gays, women, and other minority groups. Critics also fear the proposal would eliminate veterans’ preference, a program that helps former military members obtain civil service jobs. Currently, managers cannot pass over a veteran for a non-veteran or a disabled veteran for a non-disabled veteran.
The public has until May 17 to comment on the proposal. The Civil Service Commission, a panel of four members appointed by the Governor, will then vote on whether to adopt the changes. Critics also complained the Commission held only one public hearing on the matter, and none of the Commission’s members were present. Thus, Assemblywoman Linda Stender said the Assembly State Government Committee called yesterday’s meeting to give protestors another outlet. She said members of the Commission were invited to the hearing, but they declined to attend.
Stender and her fellow Democrats on the Committee lashed out against the proposal. ‘We’re talking about public dollars, about public access in a fair, competitive way to public jobs,” said Stender. “If you eliminate the tests and broad-band these titles, if you don’t protect veterans and equal opportunity, you’ve gutted the system.” Neither the State Assembly nor Senate has a formal say in the Commission’s vote, but Stender said she may introduce a resolution to protest the changes.
“Who is for nepotism and cronyism and (the idea that) the person is only qualified to get the job because the boss likes me and I make a great lunch date,” asked Assemblyman Herb Conaway, Jr. “We know these things happen. That’s why we have a civil service system in the first place-to stop that stuff. We’re walking a century backwards.”