TRENTON – The phrase “in, but not of,’’ became a touchstone for today’s state Supreme Court decision to prevent the governor from getting rid of the Council on Affordable Housing.
In dissenting from the court’s decision, Justice Anne Patterson said that the Reorganization Act “assigns to the Governor the responsibility to propose reorganization plans and to submit them to the Legislature.”
The court said that Gov. Chris Christie can’t abolish agencies created by the Legislature that are “in, but not of” the Executive branch.
However, Patterson pointed out that at least six governors and a succession of legislatures have applied the Reorganization Act precisely to such “in, but not of,’’ agencies.
Patterson wrote today that this COAH decision “is the first occasion in which this Court has invalidated a reorganization plan pursuant to the Act on the grounds that ‘in but not of’ agencies are insulated from the Reorganization Act.”
In addition, if the Legislature had wanted to veto the governor’s action it could have but chose not to, Patterson said.
Further, Patterson wrote that “It is, to me, inconceivable that a Legislature, long experienced in placing clear parameters upon its statutes, would limit this important law by such cryptic use of the word ‘of.’ ”
Patterson said that the governor does not have unilateral authority under the Reorganization Act, but he must prepare a plan and submit it for legislative review. The Legislature then has 60 days to act and it chose not to, the justice pointed out.