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New Jersey Association on Correction v. Lan

June 8, 1979

NEW JERSEY ASSOCIATION ON CORRECTION, A NEW JERSEY NOT-FOR-PROFIT CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
DONALD T. LAN, SECRETARY OF STATE OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



On appeal from the Superior Court, Appellate Division, whose opinion is reported at 164 N.J. Super. 115 (1978).

For reversal -- Chief Justice Hughes and Justices Mountain, Jacobs, Pashman, Clifford, Schreiber and Handler. For affirmance -- None. The opinion of the court was delivered by Hughes, C.J.

Hughes

Order

It appearing that the issues involved in this matter are of public importance and that an early announcement of the Court's judgment would be in the public interest, and it being the unanimous determination of the Court that the Institutional Construction Bond Act of 1978 (L. 1978, c. 79) is constitutional;

It is hereby ORDERED that the judgment of the Appellate Division is reversed, and the judgment of the trial court is reinstated. A full opinion in this matter will be filed in due course.

This issue comes before the Court on appeal by the State, as of right, R. 2:2-1(a)(1). The case originated in the adoption of L. 1978, c. 79, which was labeled the "Institutional Construction Bond Act of 1978" (hereafter "Act" or "statute") and which projected a bond issue of $100 million to provide construction of or improvement to various public buildings for purposes described in the statute. Conformably to the Constitution, which inhibits the creation of such State debt absent approval by the people, N.J. Const. (1947), Art. VIII, § II, par. 3, the statute provided for submission of the following question and Interpretive Statement to the electorate in the then forthcoming general election:

INSTITUTIONAL CONSTRUCTION BOND ISSUE

Should the "Institutional Construction Bond Act of 1978" which authorizes the State to issue bonds in the amount of $100,000,000.00 for construction and improvement of facilities serving the mentally retarded and mentally ill; for construction of correctional institutions including Trenton State Prison; and for the acquisition and construction of facilities, including facilities to serve blind and handicapped persons and a forensic laboratory for the State Medical Examiner; and to provide means to pay the principal and interest on these bonds, be approved?

INTERPRETIVE STATEMENT

Approval of this act will authorize sale of $100,000,000.00 in bonds to be used (1) to provide facilities for the mentally retarded and mentally ill which will improve the quality of care and allow the State to receive partial Federal reimbursement for such services; (2) for construction and improvement of correctional facilities to provide safe and humane conditions; (3) to offer library services to the blind and handicapped; and (4) to provide for a forensic laboratory for the State Medical Examiner.

The statute was challenged shortly after its adoption in an action filed under the Declaratory Judgments Act (N.J.S.A. 2A:16-50 et seq.) and the trial court upheld its constitutional validity in judgment rendered on October 18, 1978. The plaintiff in that action was the New Jersey Association on Correction (hereafter "Association"), formerly known as the Morrow Association, and a foremost and distinguished proponent of correctional reform. It promptly appealed the issue to the Appellate Division, where the matter was pending when the electorate approved the bond issue at the election of November 7, 1978. Thereafter the Appellate Division, on December 1, 1978, reversed the trial court, holding the underlying statute, and the bond issue it proposed, to be in conflict with the Constitution of New Jersey. The State appealed, and for reasons to be delineated herein, we were and are of the opinion that the Appellate Division was in error and that the statute and its authorized bond issue were indeed in compliance with that Constitution. Because of the urgent public question involved, we so declared by our Order entered herein on April 2, 1979, subject to amplification by this opinion.

The Association had originally argued a deficiency in the title of the Act based on conceptual or semantic differences between "public buildings" (as in the title) and "institutions" (as in the body) of the Act. It thought this appeared to offend N.J. Const. (1947), Art. IV, § VII, par. 4, that "* * * every law shall embrace but one object, and that shall be expressed in the title." This "title" contention was overruled by the trial court, was not addressed by the Appellate Division and the Association does not present it to this Court for consideration. Rather the not dissimilar gravamen of the Association's case implicated the "one object" factor of Art. IV, § VII, par. 4 and another constitutional mandate of like import which reads:

The Legislature shall not * * * create * * * a debt or debts * * * unless the same shall be authorized by a law for some single object

or work distinctly specified therein. * * * No such law shall take effect until it shall have been submitted to the people at a general election and approved by a majority of the legally qualified voters of the State voting thereon. * * * [ N.J. Const. (1947), Art. VIII, § II, par. 3].

The body of the Act illuminated the specific uses of the buildings contemplated as follows:

Bonds of the State of New Jersey in the sum of $100,000,000.00 are hereby authorized for the construction and acquisition of public building and institutions as defined herein. Of such total the proceeds from the sale of bonds shall be allocated, to the maximum extent practicable and feasible, according to the following estimates of cost:

a. The construction of public buildings for the mentally retarded in conjunction with the Federal Program for Intermediate Care Facilities/Mentally Retarded -- $51,000,000.00; and for improvements and additions to facilities for the mentally ill -- $8,000,000.00 to be implemented by the Department of Human Services.

b. The construction of institutions for the incarcerated, including the completion of the reconstruction of Trenton State Prison, to be implemented by the Department of Corrections -- $30,000,000.00.

c. Construction of public buildings for records and for library facilities for blind and handicapped persons, to be implemented by the Department of Education -- $6,500,000.00.

d. Construction of a forensic science facility for the activities of the State Medical Examiner to be implemented by the Department of Law and Public Safety -- $4,500,000.00 [ L. 1978, c. 79, § 5].

And as stated by the Appellate Division, these purposes were linked in that

[a]ll of these building projects were legislatively found to be "critically" and "immediately" needed to carry out public responsibilities to the people of this State (L. 1978, c. 79, § 2). All were recommended by the Commission on Capital Budgeting and Planning; all were designed to serve the administrative and institutional needs of State Government. [164 N.J. Super. at 119-20].

The question presented, then, is whether these different projects constituted a single object in the intendment of the ...


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