Civil Service ‘banding’ proposal awaits Assembly vote

TRENTON – The Legislature is scheduled to take up the contentious issue of blocking a proposed civil service change next week.

The Assembly has scheduled a vote Monday on a resolution in opposition to the Christie administration’s decision to establish what is called a “job banding” program. The Senate, which has a session scheduled for Thursday, has not announced what bills and resolutions it will vote on yet.

Opponents say the administration is trying to ram through with scant public review a wide-ranging reform that will make it easier to promote unqualified personnel in the name of political patronage.

Its supporters say it actually will facilitate justifiable promotions while cutting costs and red tape.

ACR215 would prohibit the proposed rule change at the Civil Service Commission from being adopted. The Senate version, SCR166, has gone through committee.

Each resolution passed along party lines in committee with Democrats supporting the resolutions and Republicans backing the administration. The resolutions state that the proposed change violates the intent of the Legislature.

The Commission has scheduled a vote for Feb. 26 on a revised banding proposal that would address some of the criticisms raised during committee hearings earlier this year, in particular that the longstanding practice of veterans’ preference will not be tampered with.

But labor forces are still worried that the proposal would defeat the merit-based concept of Civil Service. The administration has said “banding’’ jobs together will cut costs and improve efficiency, but critics warned it will just make it easy to promote undeserving employees.

Seth Hahn, spokesman for the Communications Workers of America, said they received the amended proposal wording just before the Christmas holidays and are still working to get a final analysis done in a short time frame.

“At initial glance it appeared to be lipstick on a pig, but I do want to have a little bit more of an understanding with our legal team,’’ Hahn said.

As the legislative session nears its end, the Assembly has scheduled votes on other bills as well, among them:

A4073/S2702: In recognition of how technology has changed the concept of privacy and how law enforcement is practiced, this bill sets out rules and regulations for the use of drone aircraft. The Senate version passed unanimously.

The bill sets out exceptions for fire departments and Emergency Management offices, and forbids the attachment of firearms or other antipersonnel devices.

A4486/S2995: This bans workplace discrimination of pregnant women. The bill, whose Senate version has cleared the upper chamber, would mandate such accommodations as bathroom breaks and temporary transfers to less strenuous work.

A2734/S2109: In recognition of the fact there are more and more students with food allergies, this requires schools to maintain epinephrine to administer to students having an anaphylactic reaction. The Senate version is in the committee stages.

A1336/S1682: This would allow a person to choose to vote by mail-in ballot only in all elections or in just general elections. The Senate passed its version along party lines.

Civil Service ‘banding’ proposal awaits Assembly vote