Christie's College Merger Plan Must Go Through Legislature, Non-Partisan Office Says

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

If Gov. Chris Christie wants to reshuffle the state’s higher education system, he can’t do it alone and must go through the Legislature, according to an opinion issued by the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services.

Christie is pushing hard for a reorganization plan that calls for Rowan University to take over Rutgers-Camden and for Rutgers University to absorb parts of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. While saying he wants to work with lawmakers, he has not ruled out using a 1969 law that empowers the state’s chief executive to reorganize departments with modest legislative interference.

But in an OLS opinion obtained by The Star-Ledger, it says he doesn’t have a choice. The non-binding opinion is based largely on a recent state court decision that said Christie overstepped his authority while abolishing the Council of Affordable Housing, which only the Legislature had the power to eliminate.

“In view of the degree of independence and autonomy accorded UMDNJ, Rutgers University and Rowan University, it would appear, based on the Appellate Division’s COAH decision, that these entities… do not come within the purview of the Executive Reorganization Act and, therefore, cannot be reorganized by an executive reorganization plan,” according to OLS.

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