Save Rutgers: Governor Christie Sets July 1 Deadline But What Does That Mean?

Save Rutgers: Governor Christie Sets July 1 Deadline But What Does That Mean?

On Tuesday, Governor Christie announced an arbitrary deadline for the implementation of the UMDNJ Advisory Commission’s plans for higher education in New Jersey.

The plan will be set into motion and key components of UMDNJ and Rutgers University will be combined by July 1, 2012. A feat that I admit would be impressive if it weren’t very impossible!

Our government is slow; sometimes painfully so. Things can only be expected to move at a snail’s pace when all of the important pieces are working together for a common goal. That is not the case with the merger plan for Rutgers and Rowan. In fact, the only pieces working toward that goal seem to be Governor Christie and George Norcross

Everyone from the Rutgers Faculty and students, the Board of Governors, the Rowan student government, the Camden County Bar Association, the New Jersey Bar Association, Senator Donald Norcross (?), Save Jersey, Blue Jersey, and finally, the public. That list is not even exhaustive, but I think it is convincing enough to prove my point. The political process almost always requires some sort of consensus to move forward. It does not exist here.

What interests me most about this announcement is exactly how the Governor plans on getting it done. Someone please email me and correct me if I am wrong, but the exact legal process by which this is going to continue has not been formally announced as of this point in time.

As I wrote weeks ago when this plan was first proposed and supported by the Governor, there are only two ways it can go through:

  1. Gubernatorial Reorganization
  2. Normal legislation

After reading the law, I am of the opinion that Gubernatorial Reorganization is off the table. A 1994 law precludes the Governor from unilaterally modifying the structure of higher education in New Jersey (go back and read my analysis for more detail). However, that does not mean that it will not be attempted and then subsequently fought over in court.

If the Governor wants to go it alone, he can submit a plan to the legislature, and if they do nothing it will eventually become law. The problem there is that a 60 day countdown must expire before it can take effect. That means the Governor would need to submit the reorganization plan a full 2 months before July 1st.

Now I know what you are thinking. “Isn’t there a plan already?” Well thats the thing. There is not. Nothing has specifically been decided. Maybe some parts of the deal are ready to go, but I can tell you the Rutgers Camden is not. No one knows how much this is going to cost, and conflicting information has been flying around since day 1 as to what falls under the proposal. How vague could the submission really be for the legislature not to reject it outright and reset?

The other course of action is going through the normal channels of the legislature, which seems to be the most likely course of action. However, that means drafting a bill, having hearings, clearing committee votes, making deals to get votes, and passing identical bills in both houses. This all has to happen while the budget is being debated and education reform, tax cuts, and a slew of other issues are all on the table. Then keep in mind that the legislators in the areas affected by the mergers are against the plans, because their constituencies are, and that the topic is essentially toxic throughout the state.

Yeah, I see that happening by July 1… [read sarcasm here]

Then comes the questions regarding what the Governor actually means by a July 1 deadline. What part of the plan should be implemented by then? The deadline was announced at a hearing on the UMDNJ portion of the plan in Newark, so would it just be for that? Short answer: No (from Philly.com):

Last week Christie commanded reporters to “stop asking this question” about the forced divorce between Rutgers-Camden and the rest of the state university system.

“The merger’s gonna go through,” the governor declared. “I’m following the (Barer) commission’s recommendations because it’s what’s best for the state of New Jersey.”

There is zero rational basis for not at least considering the severance of the initial proposal into separate parts for piecemeal acceptance or rejection, or to implement over time. The proposal itself was low on any detail whatever, so it is not as though one piece being removed would bring the whole plan down. This is not ObamaCare, after all.

I can only offer conjecture here, but it seems to me that Governor Christie sees what a stir this has caused and wants to push it through as quickly as possible, and as far away from November 2013 as he can. It makes sense politically, but I do not believe it will merely happen and be forgotten by 40,000+ alumni and their respective personal networks.

The Rowan takeover of Rutgers Camden is literally the least popular proposal ever endorsed by Chris Christie. The vast majority of Republicans throughout the state are even opposed to it; and those Republicans that live in the affected areas are even more unhappy. Those are the areas where Governor Christie needs to keep his margins down if he wishes to remain our Governor for another four years. The likelihood of a Christie victory in Newark or in Camden County  writ-large is slim for sure, but the margin of loss in these heavily Democrat areas, especially when an issue like this brings the parties together in opposition, could be enough to seriously hurt our effort in keeping the executive branch a solid red.

Sometimes it just seems best to pick your battles and slow down. This might be one of those times!

157 thoughts on “Save Rutgers: Governor Christie Sets July 1 Deadline But What Does That Mean?

  1. COAH decision today bolsters the argument that Christie simply does not have the power under reorganization to do this.

    "A state appeals panel today overturned Gov. Chris Christie’s effort last June to abolish the Council on Affordable Housing, reviving the controversial agency.

    In a unanimous decision, Judges Philip Carchman, Clarkson Fisher and William Nugent said only the Legislature can eliminate COAH, an independent agency.

    "While the framers of our Constitution intended to create a strong executive in the office of Governor (perhaps the strongest in the United States), they also recognized the need to insulate functions and agencies from executive control," wrote Carchman"

  2. I agree. COAH was created as an independent agency as a result of the Mt. Laurel decision by the supreme court of NJ. It was not an executive agency per se.

    Higher Education used to be an executive department, but it was abolished in 1994 and the act that abolished it actually states that executive reorganizations of higher education related institutions are prohibited.

    Legally the Governor is unlikely to be able to act alone, and I am sure that he knows this, at least by now.

  3. christie likes to throw his weight around but if he thinks this is a done deal then he should come out and tell us the cost. Make your case or shut your hole!!

  4. The reason why UMD has not provided a plan for the transfer of assets is that they are dragging their feet and trying to make it look so complicated and costly hoping that the Governor will go away. Simply speaking, mergers and acquisitions happen all the time, it CAN BE DONE, and it SHOULD BE DONE. We have wasted enough of our tax dollars waiting for UMD to turn around – it is a pit of incompetence and waste administratively, which is unfortunate for the talented professionals in medicine and students.

  5. Benjamin Disraeli: "Whenever is found what is called a paternal government, there is found state education. It has been discovered that the best way to ensure implicit obedience is to commence tyranny in the nursery."

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