NJ Supreme Court Rules Christie Exceeded His Authority

TRENTON – The state Supreme Court ruled today that Gov. Chris Christie did not have the authority to abolish New Jersey’s state Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) in a 5-2 decision.

Christie attempted to use authority granted under the Reorganization Act to eliminate obsolete or redundant bodies in the executive branch, but an appellate panel and the state Supreme Court ruled that the law does not apply to COAH because it was “in but not of” the executive branch.

“[T]he plain language of the Reorganization Act does not encompass COAH,” wrote Chief Justice Stuart Rabner. “We therefore conclude that the Act does not authorize a Chief Executive to abolish an independent agency  like COAH.”

Christie eliminated the council in 2011 and brought its functions into the executive branch. The independent agency was formed as a result of the state Supreme Court’s Mount Laurel decisions, which require towns to provide a certain number of affordable housing units.

“Today’s decision makes it clear that the Governor cannot ignore the law, he can’t dismiss the constitutional role of the Legislature and he shouldn’t ignore the need for affordable housing in New Jersey,” said state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union). “Dismantling COAH with no alternative  is no way to answer the need for housing that is affordable to low- and moderate-income residents in a state where it is expensive to buy or rent a home.  We should fix the system, not eliminate it.”

Christie attacked the court’s ruling. “Both elected branches of government approved the plan to eliminate COAH,” the governor said, ignoring his decision to veto the bill passed by the Legislature to overhaul New Jersey’s affordable housing rules. “Not surprisingly, this liberal Supreme Court once again ignores that and continues to blindly perpetuate its failed social experiment in housing. The Chief Justice’s activist opinion arrogantly bolsters another of the failures he and his colleagues have foisted on New Jersey taxpayers. This only steels my determination to continue to fight to bring common sense back to New Jersey’s judiciary.”

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