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Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO v. New Jersey Civil Service Commission

Supreme Court of New Jersey

August 8, 2018

COMMUNICATIONS WORKERS OF AMERICA, AFL-CIO, Appellant-Respondent,
v.
NEW JERSEY CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION, Respondent-Appellant. COMMUNICATIONS WORKERS OF AMERICA, AFL-CIO, Appellant-Respondent,
v.
NEW JERSEY CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION, Respondent-Appellant. IN THE MATTER OF JOB BANDING FOR SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST 1 AND 2, AND NETWORK ADMINISTRATOR 1 AND 2, OFFICE OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY. IN THE MATTER OF CHANGES IN THE STATE CLASSIFICATION PLAN AND JOB BANDING REQUEST, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION. IN THE MATTER OF CHANGES IN THE STATE CLASSIFICATION PLAN AND JOB BANDING REQUEST, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION. IN THE MATTER OF JOB BANDING FOR SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT SPECIALIST 1 AND 2, AND NETWORK ADMINISTRATOR 1 AND 2, OFFICE OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY.

          Argued September 12, 2017

          On certification to the Superior Court, Appellate Division, whose opinion is reported at 447 N.J.Super. 584 (App. Div. 2016).

          Peter Slocum argued the cause for appellant New Jersey Civil Service Commission (Christopher S. Porrino, Attorney General of New Jersey, attorney; Melissa H. Raksa, of counsel; and Peter Slocum, on the brief).

          Leon J. Sokol argued the cause for respondents Stephen M. Sweeney, President of the New Jersey State Senate, Vincent Prieto, Speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly, the Senate, and the General Assembly (Cullen and Dykman, attorneys; Leon J. Sokol and Herbert B. Bennett, on the briefs).

          Annmarie Pinarski argued the cause for respondent Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO (Weissman & Mintz, attorneys; Annmarie Pinarski and Steven P. Weissman, on the brief).

          Arnold Shep Cohen argued the cause for respondent International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers Local 195 (Oxfeld Cohen, attorneys; Arnold Shep Cohen, of counsel and on the brief).

          PATTERSON, J., writing for the Court.

         The Court considers the Legislature's first exercise of its constitutional authority under the Legislative Review Clause and the threshold question of whether and under what standard a court can review concurrent resolutions as to agency rules and regulations.

         The Legislative Review Clause, adopted as an amendment to the New Jersey Constitution in 1992, authorizes the Legislature to determine whether an administrative rule or regulation promulgated by an executive agency "is consistent with the intent of the Legislature as expressed in the language of the statute which the rule or regulation is intended to implement." N.J. Const. art. V, § 4, ¶ 6. The Clause prescribes a procedure through which the Legislature, by concurrent resolution, notifies the Governor and executive agency that the challenged rule or regulation contravenes legislative intent as stated in an enabling act's statutory terms. Following delivery of that resolution to the Governor and the head of the agency, the agency is afforded thirty days to reconcile the disputed rule or regulation with legislative intent by amending or withdrawing it. Ibid. If the agency does not amend or withdraw the rule or regulation, the Legislature may commence the second phase of the process. Ibid. In that phase, a second concurrent resolution invalidating the rule or regulation is introduced in the Senate and General Assembly. Either house then holds a public hearing regarding the invalidation of the rule or regulation and delivers a transcript of the hearing to the desk of each legislator. Ibid. Twenty days after the transcripts are delivered, the Senate and General Assembly may vote to pass the resolution invalidating the rule or regulation. Ibid.

         In March 2013, the Civil Service Commission (the Commission) published amendments to the New Jersey Administrative Code (the Proposed Rule). The Proposed Rule introduced the concept of a "job band," defined as "a grouping of titles or title series into a single broad band consisting of title levels with similar duties, responsibilities, and qualifications." Under the Proposed Rule, employees could advance between banded titles without competitive examinations, and the appointing authority would have the discretion to choose among all of the candidates who demonstrated the required competencies, rather than choosing among the three highest-ranking eligibles. In the Commission's view, there was "no Constitutional or statutory impediment to the advancement of employees to different levels within a single title without a formal, competitive examination."

         On June 27, 2013, the Legislature passed a concurrent resolution declaring the Proposed Rule inconsistent with the legislative intent of the Civil Service Act, N.J.S.A. 11A:1-1 to -12.6. On December 4, 2013, the Legislature transmitted the concurrent resolution, commencing the thirty-day period for the Commission to amend or withdraw the rule. The next day, however, the Senate commenced the second phase of the Legislative Review Clause by introducing a concurrent resolution invalidating the Proposed Rule.

         On December 23, 2013, the Commission announced amendments to the Proposed Rule (the First Amended Proposed Rule). On May 7, 2014, the Commission adopted the First Amended Proposed Rule as N.J.A.C. 4A:3-3.2A. In the wake of the Commission's adoption of the First Amended Proposed Rule, the Legislature recommenced the Legislative Review Clause procedure. On June 16, 2014, the Legislature passed a concurrent resolution declaring the First Amended Proposed Rule contrary to Article VII, Section 1, Paragraph 2 of the New Jersey Constitution, and the legislative intent of the Civil Service Act. The concurrent resolution stated that "[a]ny amended rule that contains a job banding provision or elimination of competitive promotional examinations" would be deemed to violate Article VII, Section 1, Paragraph 2 and "the Civil Service Act, including the spirit, intent, or plain meaning of N.J.S.A. 11A:3-1, N.J.S.A. 11A:4-1, or N.J.S.A. 11A:4-8." The Legislature transmitted the concurrent resolution on June 17, 2014, thus commencing the thirty-day period for the Commission to amend or withdraw N.J.A.C. 4A:3-3.2A.

         On July 16, 2014, the Commission proposed a third iteration of the job banding rule (the Second Amended Proposed Rule). The Legislature did not recommence the two-phase process. Instead, on September 29, 2014, a new concurrent resolution was introduced in the General Assembly that addressed both the First and the Second Amended Proposed Rules. The Legislature stated that the amendments were "not responsive to the . . . finding . . . that job banding is not consistent with legislative intent as expressed in the language of the Civil Service Act" and thus "do not in any way limit [its] ability to proceed with invalidating the job banding rule." The Legislature thus resolved to invalidate N.J.A.C. 4A:3-3.2A "in its entirety" and declared that "any subsequent amendments to said regulation shall be deemed null and void." On October 22, 2014, the Commission adopted the Second Amended Proposed Rule as N.J.A.C. 4A:3-3.2A. On December 18, 2014, the Legislature passed the final concurrent resolution at issue in this appeal, to invalidate the job banding rule.

         On February 9, 2015, the Chairman of the Commission issued a statement declaring job banding to be consistent with the Constitution and the Civil Service Act. The Chairman further asserted that the Legislature failed to properly invalidate N.J.A.C. 4A:3-3.2A in light of the Second Amended Proposed Rule. The Commission subsequently approved two requests by appointing authorities to implement job banding pursuant to N.J.A.C. 4A:3-3.2A. The Commission's approval of the positions constituted final administrative determinations, subject to appeal. See R. 2:2-3(a)(2).

         The Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO (CWA), the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, AFL-CIO (IFPTE), and the Senate President and the Speaker of the General Assembly challenged the adoption and implementation of the job banding rule. The Appellate Division granted the Senate and the General Assembly leave to intervene in two appeals.

         In an opinion by Judge Fasciale, an Appellate Division panel held that the Legislature properly invoked the Legislative Review Clause to invalidate N.J.A.C. 4A:3-3.2A. 447 N.J.Super. 584, 606 (App. Div. 2016). The panel concluded that the deferential standard that ordinarily applies in appellate review of agency determinations should not govern an invocation of the Legislative Review Clause. Id. at 600. The panel prescribed a three-pronged standard to govern appellate review. Applying that standard to the dispute before it, the panel concluded that the Legislature had complied with the Legislative Review Clause's procedural requirements. Id. at 602-03. The panel found no violation of federal or state constitutional norms in the Legislature's action. Id. at 606. Finally, the panel concluded that the Legislature's determination that there was a conflict between the job banding rule and the Civil Service Act "does not amount to a patently erroneous interpretation of the language of the [statute]." Id. at 603. It reversed the Commissioner's final agency determinations, and vacated the implementation of N.J.A.C. 4A:3-3.2A. Id. at 606. The Court granted the Commission's petition for certification. 229 N.J. 590 (2017).

         HELD: A court may reverse the Legislature's invalidation of an agency rule or regulation pursuant to the Legislative Review Clause if (1) the Legislature has not complied with the procedural requirements of the Clause; (2) the Legislature has incorrectly asserted that the challenged rule or regulation is inconsistent with "the intent of the Legislature as expressed in the language of the statute which the rule or regulation is intended to implement," N.J. Const. art. V, § 4, ¶ 6; or (3) the Legislature's action violates a protection afforded by any other provision of the New Jersey Constitution, or a provision of the United States Constitution. To determine legislative intent, the court should rely exclusively on statutory language. It should not apply a presumption in favor of either the Legislature's findings or the agency's exercise of its rulemaking authority. Here, the Court finds no procedural defect or constitutional infirmity in the Legislature's actions. The Legislature correctly determined that N.J.A.C. 4A:3-3.2A conflicts with two provisions of the Civil Service Act.

         1. The Legislative Review Clause imposes a series of procedural requirements for an exercise of a legislative veto. If the Legislature has not complied with those requirements, its attempt to invalidate the agency's action is a nullity, and the reviewing court's inquiry ends. (pp. 24-25)

         2. The separation of powers provision, N.J. Const. art. III, ¶ 1, was designed to maintain the balance between the three branches of government, preserve their respective independence and integrity, and prevent the concentration of unchecked power in the hands of any one branch. The doctrine requires not an absolute division of power but a cooperative accommodation among the three branches of government. Closely aligned with the separation of powers provision is the Presentment Clause, N.J. Const. art. V, § 1, ¶ 14, which bars the exercise of law-making power without the concurrence of both houses of the Legislature and approval by the Executive, unless the Legislature can muster a two-thirds majority vote of both houses to override the executive veto. Like the separation of powers provision, the Presentment Clause was enacted to prevent unwarranted legislative interference with the executive branch and excessive legislative law-making power. (pp. 25-29)

         3. In 1981, the Legislature unanimously overrode a veto by Governor Byrne to enact the Legislative Oversight Act, which required that all new and amended regulations, except those mandated by federal law or related to an emergency affecting the public health, safety, or welfare, be submitted to the Legislature for review and approval. In General Assembly v. Byrne, the Court rejected an application for a declaratory judgment stating that the Legislative Oversight Act was constitutional. 90 N.J. 376, 385-95 (1982). It acknowledged the nexus between the separation of powers doctrine and the Presentment Clause, noting that "[a]ny legislative action that so removes the Governor from law making as to violate the Presentment Clause, Art. V, § 1, ¶ 14, threatens the separation of powers." Id. at 385. The Court also held that the Act violated the separation of powers doctrine and the Presentment Clause "by giving the Legislature excessive power." Id. at 395-96. The Court noted that "the Legislature cannot circumvent the constitutional requirement of presentment to the Governor merely by passing a statute which allows such a procedure." Id. at 391. On the very day that General Assembly was decided, the Legislature passed a concurrent resolution proposing a constitutional amendment. In the 1985 general election, however, the voters rejected the proposed constitutional amendment. The Legislative Review Clause approved by the voters in 1992 is a grant of a far more limited power. By virtue of its limiting language, the Clause follows the constitutional principles of General Assembly. (pp. 29-34)

         4. When the Legislature exercises its constitutional authority to make laws, its actions are afforded highly deferential judicial review. In its rulemaking function, an executive agency is similarly afforded substantial deference. When the Legislature and Executive dispute the parameters of their constitutional powers, the separation of powers doctrine mandates vigilant judicial review. When a court reviews the Legislature's finding that there is a conflict between the enabling statute and the rule or regulation, no presumption should operate in favor of the position taken by either branch. Instead, the court should simply determine whether the Legislature's finding that the rule or regulation conflicts with statutory language is correct. The court should be guided exclusively by the statutory text, not by extrinsic evidence of legislative intent. That limitation effectuates the language ratified by the voters and serves the objectives of the separation of powers provision and the Presentment Clause because it tethers the veto power to the language of a statute passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor. A reviewing court should also determine whether invocation of the Legislative Review Clause contravenes any other constitutional provision. In sum, a court should review the Legislature's invalidation of an administrative rule or regulation under a three-part inquiry. (pp. 34-42)

         5. First, the Court addresses the Legislature's compliance with the Legislative Review Clause's procedural requirements. The Legislature prematurely commenced the Legislative Review Clause's second phase in its challenge to the original Proposed Rule. That does not affect its second invalidation of N.J.A.C. 4A:3-3.2A, which is the operative legislative action for purposes of these appeals, however. In that second invocation of its legislative veto power, the Legislature took no action during the thirty-day period for the Commission to amend or withdraw the published rule. As to the assertion that there was a procedural defect in the Legislature's subsequent challenge to N.J.A.C. 4A:3-3.2A, the Clause does not specifically address a setting in which the agency amends the rule or regulation but the Legislature finds that amendment inadequate. The provision's objective of ensuring that rules and regulations comport with their enabling statutes, however, would be undermined if an agency could indefinitely forestall a legislative veto by a succession of minor amendments that do not resolve the Legislature's concern. Here, the Legislature correctly determined that the amendments did not address its objections, and properly proceeded to invalidate that regulation. There was no procedural defect in the Legislature's exercise of the Legislative Review Clause. (pp. 43-46)

         6. The Court next considers whether N.J.A.C. 4A:3-3.2A is consistent with the language of the Civil Service Act's relevant provisions. (pp. 46-60)

         The Civil Service Act was enacted to secure the appointment and advancement of civil service employees based on their merit and abilities, and it emphasizes the role of competitive examinations in appointment and promotion. The Act's legislative findings expressly acknowledge and reinforce Article VII, Section I, Paragraph 2 of the New Jersey Constitution. That provision does not require that merit and fitness be determined by competitive examination in every case, but only as far as practicable. In addition to stating the competitive examination requirement, the Civil Service Act addresses the procedure for those examinations and the appointments and promotions that derive from them. The Act charges the Commission to "provide for . . . [t]he announcement and administration of examinations which shall test fairly the knowledge, skills and abilities required to satisfactorily perform the duties of a title or group of titles." N.J.S.A. 11A:4-1(a). Such "examinations may include, but are not limited to, written, oral, performance and evaluation of education and experience." Ibid. Vacancies "shall be filled by a promotional examination when considered by the commission to be in the best interest of the career service." N.J.S.A. 11A:4-2. Following a competitive examination, the Commission is charged to "certify the three eligibles who have received the highest ranking on an open competitive or promotional list." N.J.S.A. 11A:4-8. The appointing authority is then permitted to select one of the three highest scoring candidates from an open competitive examination. (pp. 46-51)

         The Court concludes that N.J.A.C. 4A:3-3.2A directly contradicts legislative intent as expressed in two provisions of the Civil Service Act, N.J.S.A. 11A:4-1 and N.J.S.A. 11A:4-8. First, contrary to one of the chief policy goals identified by the Legislature in N.J.S.A. 11A:3-2.1, the Commission's job banding rule authorizes promotions between banded titles in the competitive division without the competitive examinations addressed in N.J.S.A. 11A:4-1. The Commission argues that for employees in job banded titles, competency evaluations should be deemed to constitute the competitive examinations envisioned by Article VII, Section 1, Paragraph 2 and N.J.S.A. 11A:4-1. That assertion, however, is belied by the terms of the regulation itself, which makes clear its purpose to eliminate competitive examinations in advancement between positions within a job band. In short, by the very terms of the job banding regulation, competency evaluations are distinct from competitive examinations, not their functional equivalent. Second, N.J.A.C. 4A:3-3.2A directly contravenes N.J.S.A. 11A:4-8, the Civil Service Act provision codifying the "Rule of Three." Under the job banding regulation, the Commission does not certify three eligible candidates based on their ranking in a competitive examination. Applying no presumption in favor of either the Legislature's contentions or the validity of the Commission's regulation, the Court concludes that the Legislature properly invoked the Legislative Review Clause. (pp. 51-60)

         7. Finally, the Court does not find any violation of a protection afforded by any other provision of the New Jersey Constitution, or by the United States Constitution, in the legislative veto at issue in these appeals. (p. 60)

         AFFIRMED AS MODIFIED.

         JUSTICE LaVECCHIA, concurring in the judgment and dissenting in part, agrees that the Appellate Division rightly rejected the Commission's challenge but dissents from the adopted standard for judicial review in Justice Patterson's opinion, suggesting that a substantial deference standard is more consistent with constitutional text that explicitly provides the Legislature with veto power. Justice LaVecchia notes that the agency's rulemaking power is merely derived from the Legislature's enabling act and that, under the Constitution as now amended, the Legislature is authorized to explain its intent, using its language, and thereby explicate the legislative policy and principle of an enabling act for the benefit of the implementing agency. According to Justice LaVecchia, the Judiciary's view of legislative intent, culled from statutory language using the usual tools of statutory construction, is as subordinate as that of the Executive's in this setting.

         JUSTICE SOLOMON, concurring in part and dissenting in part, concurs in the majority's stated standard of review but dissents because, here, the majority improperly applies that standard. In Justice Solomon's view, the job banding regulation is consistent with the Constitution and the "intent" of the Civil Service Act (CSA) "as expressed in [its] language," N.J. Const. art. V, § 4, ¶ 6, both in a general sense and in its particulars. Given the absence of conflict between the language of the statute and the stricken regulation, it appears to Justice Solomon that the Legislature relied on its view of the "spirit" of the CSA -- not the Act's intent as expressed in its plain language -- to strike down the Job Banding Rule and that, by allowing it to do so, the majority expands legislative authority and reduces executive authority in a manner that threatens to undo the balance of powers established by Article III, ¶ 1, and Article V, § 1, ¶ 14 of the New Jersey Constitution.

          JUSTICE PATTERSON delivered the opinion of the Court as to both the applicable standard of review and the outcome in this appeal. JUSTICE LaVECCHIA filed a separate opinion -- concurring in the outcome in this appeal but dissenting as to the applicable standard of review -- in which JUSTICES ALBIN and TIMPONE join. JUSTICE SOLOMON filed a separate opinion -- concurring as to the applicable standard of review but dissenting as to the outcome in this appeal -- in which CHIEF JUSTICE RABNER and JUSTICE FERNANDEZ-VINA join.

          OPINION

          PATTERSON, JUSTICE

         The Legislative Review Clause authorizes the Legislature to determine whether an administrative rule or regulation promulgated by an executive agency "is consistent with the intent of the Legislature as expressed in the language of the statute which the rule or regulation is intended to implement." N.J. Const. art. V, § 4, ¶ 6. The Clause prescribes a procedure through which the Legislature, by concurrent resolution, notifies the Governor and executive agency that the challenged rule or regulation contravenes legislative intent as stated in an enabling act's statutory terms, and gives the agency an opportunity to amend or withdraw the rule or regulation. In a second concurrent resolution, the Legislature invalidates the rule or regulation. Ibid.

         In the five appeals before the Court, we consider the Legislature's first exercise of its constitutional authority under the Legislative Review Clause. The appeals arose from the Civil Service Commission's (the Commission) introduction of a rule allowing "job banding," the aggregation of certain public employment job titles in a "band" that permits employees to advance to higher titles within a band without competitive examinations. N.J.A.C. 4A:3-3.2A. The Legislature contended that the Commission's job banding rule contravened Article VII, Section 1, Paragraph 2 of the New Jersey Constitution, a provision addressing competitive examinations in public employment, and the New Jersey Civil Service Act, N.J.S.A. 11A:1-1 to -12.6. It first objected to, and then invalidated, the rule by concurrent resolution. Asserting that its job banding rule was consonant with the New Jersey Constitution and the Civil Service Act, the Commission nevertheless adopted and implemented that rule.

         The Commission's actions were challenged in appeals filed by Stephen M. Sweeney, President of the Senate; Vincent Prieto, Speaker of the General Assembly; the Senate; the General Assembly; and two unions representing public employees affected by the job banding rule. A threshold question arose as to whether and under what standard a court can review concurrent resolutions as to agency rules and regulations. An Appellate Division panel held that a court may reverse the Legislature's invalidation of a rule or regulation if the Legislature's action is procedurally deficient, if it violates federal or state constitutional protections, or if it constitutes a patently erroneous interpretation of the statutory language of the enabling act. Commc'ns Workers of Am. v. Civil Serv. Comm'n, 447 N.J.Super. 584, 601 (App. Div. 2016). Under that standard, the panel found no defect in the Legislature's invalidation of the job banding rule. The panel therefore reversed the Commission's decisions, and invalidated N.J.A.C. 4A:3-3.2A. Id. at 606.

         We now modify the standard of review articulated by the Appellate Division panel to harmonize the Legislative Review Clause with our Constitution's separation of powers provision, N.J. Const. art. III, ¶ 1, and Presentment Clause, N.J. Const. art. V, § 1, ¶ 14. We hold that a court may reverse the Legislature's invalidation of an agency rule or regulation pursuant to the Legislative Review Clause if (1) the Legislature has not complied with the procedural requirements of the Clause; (2) the Legislature has incorrectly asserted that the challenged rule or regulation is inconsistent with "the intent of the Legislature as expressed in the language of the statute which the rule or regulation is intended to implement," N.J. Const. art. V, § 4, ¶ 6; or (3) the Legislature's action violates a protection afforded by any other provision of the New Jersey Constitution, or a provision of the United States Constitution. To determine legislative intent, the court should rely exclusively on statutory language. It should not apply a presumption in favor of either the Legislature's findings or the agency's exercise of its rulemaking authority.

         Applying that standard of review to the legislative veto at issue in these appeals, we find no procedural defect or constitutional infirmity in the Legislature's actions. We conclude that the Legislature correctly determined that N.J.A.C. 4A:3-3.2A conflicts with two provisions of the Civil Service Act, N.J.S.A. 11A:4-1 and N.J.S.A. 11A:4-8. Accordingly, we concur with the Appellate Division panel that the Legislature properly invoked the Legislative Review Clause, and we affirm as modified its judgment.

         I.

         A.

         The Legislative Review Clause, adopted as an amendment to the New Jersey Constitution in 1992, provides in relevant part:

The Legislature may review any rule or regulation to determine if the rule or regulation is consistent with the intent of the Legislature as expressed in the language of the statute which the rule or regulation is intended to implement. Upon a finding that an existing or proposed rule or regulation is not consistent with legislative intent, the Legislature shall transmit this finding in the form of a concurrent resolution to the Governor and the head of the Executive Branch agency which promulgated, or plans to promulgate, the rule or regulation. The agency shall have 30 days to amend or withdraw the existing or proposed rule or regulation. If the agency does not amend or withdraw the existing or proposed rule or regulation, the Legislature may invalidate that rule or regulation, in whole or in part, or may prohibit that proposed rule or regulation, in whole or in part, from taking effect by a vote of a majority of the authorized membership of each House in favor of a concurrent resolution providing for invalidation or prohibition, as the case may be, of the rule or regulation. This vote shall not take place until at least 20 calendar days after the placing on the desks of the members of each House of the Legislature in open meeting of the transcript of a public hearing held by either House on the invalidation or prohibition of the rule or regulation.
[ N.J. Const. art. V, § 4, ¶ 6.]

         The Legislative Review Clause thus prescribes a two-phase procedure. In the first phase, the Legislature passes a concurrent resolution asserting an inconsistency between the disputed agency rule or regulation and the Legislature's intent, as expressed in the language of the enabling statute. Ibid. Following delivery of that resolution to the Governor and the head of the agency, the agency is afforded thirty days to reconcile the disputed rule or regulation with legislative intent by amending or withdrawing it. Ibid.

         If the agency does not amend or withdraw the rule or regulation, the Legislature may commence the second phase of the process. Ibid. In that phase, a second concurrent resolution invalidating the rule or regulation is introduced in the Senate and General Assembly. Either house then holds a public hearing regarding the invalidation of the rule or regulation and delivers a transcript of the hearing to the desk of each legislator. Ibid. Twenty days after the transcripts are delivered, the Senate and General Assembly may vote to pass the resolution invalidating the rule or regulation. Ibid.

         Prior to the legislative veto that gave rise to these appeals, the Legislature had never invalidated a rule or regulation pursuant to the Legislative Review Clause.

         B.

         In March 2013, the Commission published amendments to Title 4A of the New Jersey Administrative Code (the Proposed Rule). 45 N.J.R. 500(a) (Mar. 18, 2013). The Commission stated that the Proposed Rule was intended "to codify a new job banding program that would apply to positions in both State and local service." 45 N.J.R. at 501.

         The Commission acknowledged that it had been its established practice to administer competitive examinations for promotions in every job title in State service. Ibid. The Commission deemed that process -- which required the announcement of an opening, a determination of who is eligible to take the examination, the administration of the examination, and the certification of the highest ranking scores to the appointing authority -- to be inefficient. 45 N.J.R. at 505.

         The Proposed Rule incorporated several significant amendments to that regulatory scheme. It introduced the concept of a "job band," defined as "a grouping of titles or title series into a single broad band consisting of title levels with similar duties, responsibilities, and qualifications." 45 N.J.R. at 507. It used the term "competency" to describe "the minimum level of training and orientation needed to successfully perform at a particular title level within a job band." Ibid. The Proposed Rule defined an "advancement appointment" as "a movement within a job band, upon achievement of a specific number of predetermined competencies, to a higher title level and, where applicable, associated higher class code, which does not require competitive examination." Ibid.

         The Proposed Rule also amended existing regulatory definitions. The term "promotion" was limited, in relation to State service positions, to "a movement to a title with a higher class code not in the employee's current job band." Ibid. The term "title," as applied to "titles approved for inclusion in job bands," was defined to "mean the title level within the job band, and, where applicable, the level's associated class code, unless otherwise stated, or the context clearly suggests otherwise." 45 N.J.R. at 508.

         The Commission explained that under the Proposed Rule, employees could advance between banded titles without competitive examinations, and that the appointing authority would have the discretion to choose among all of the candidates who demonstrated the required competencies, rather than choosing among the three highest-ranking eligibles pursuant to N.J.S.A. 11A:4-8. 45 N.J.R. at 505.

         In the Commission's view, the constitutional and statutory mandate to conduct competitive examinations does not

require the application of the formal examination process in every instance in which an employee demonstrates (and the needs of the appointing authority require) that he or she has progressed from being able to perform "routine" level work to being able to perform "complex" level work associated with the title.
[45 N.J.R. at 502.]

         It explained that an employee's progression -- treated in existing regulations "as a 'promotion' to the next higher, non-supervisory title in a title series" -- is more accurately viewed as the employee's advancement "to the point where he or she can be entrusted with higher level, non-supervisory duties." Ibid. The Commission concluded that there was "no Constitutional or statutory impediment to the advancement of employees to different levels within a single title without a formal, competitive examination." Ibid.

         The Commission predicted that job banding would "streamline the selection process by eliminating duplicative promotional procedures, while preserving the underlying principles of merit and fitness." Ibid.

          On June 27, 2013, the Legislature passed a concurrent resolution declaring the Proposed Rule to be inconsistent with the legislative intent of the Civil Service Act.[1] A. Con. Res. 199 (2013) (enacted). In the concurrent resolution, the Legislature made the following findings:

The proposed new Job Banding Rule, N.J.A.C. 4A:3-3.2A, is contrary to the spirit, intent, and plain meaning of the provision in the New Jersey Constitution that requires that promotions be based on merit and fitness to be ascertained, as far as practicable, by examination, which, as far as practicable, shall be competitive.
The fact that the proposed new rule would eliminate competitive promotional examinations for tens of thousands of positions for which such exams have been administered for decades is compelling evidence that it is practicable to continue to determine the merit and fitness of candidates for such promotional positions by competitive examination in accordance with the New Jersey Constitution.
The proposed new rule is not consistent with the legislative intent that the public policy of this State is to select and advance employees on the basis of their relative knowledge, skills and abilities, ensure equal employment opportunity at all levels of public service, and protect career public employees from political coercion.
The proposed new rule is not consistent with the legislative intent that a competitive promotional examination process be established, maintained, and administered by the Civil Service Commission to ensure that promotions are based on merit and fitness and are not based on patronage or discriminatory reasons.
The proposed new rule is not consistent with the legislative intent that whenever a veteran ranks highest on a promotional certification, a nonveteran shall not be appointed unless the appointing authority shall show cause before the commission why a veteran should not receive such promotion.
The proposed new rule is not consistent with the intent of the Legislature as expressed in the language of the Civil Service Act, including the spirit, intent, or plain meaning of N.J.S.A. 11A:3-1, N.J.S.A. 11A:4-1, N.J.S.A. 11A:4-8 or N.J.S.A. 11A:5-7.
[Ibid.]

         On December 4, 2013, the Legislature transmitted the concurrent resolution to the Commission and the Governor, thus commencing the thirty-day period for the Commission to amend or withdraw the disputed rule under the Legislative Review Clause. The next day, however, the Senate commenced the second phase of the Legislative Review Clause by introducing a concurrent resolution invalidating the Proposed Rule. S. Con. Res. 166 (2013). The Senate held a public hearing regarding the concurrent resolution on December 12, 2013, thereby commencing the twenty-day period that the Legislature was required to wait before voting to invalidate the Proposed Rule. See N.J. Const. art. V, § 4, ¶ 6.

         On December 23, 2013, the Commission announced amendments to the Proposed Rule (the First Amended Proposed Rule). See 46 N.J.R. 260(a) (Feb. 3, 2014). In the First Amended Proposed Rule, the Commission limited job banding to civilian, non-public safety job titles in State service. Ibid. It also confirmed the applicability of the Title 11A veterans' preference[2] to advancement appointments, and clarified remedies for alleged discrimination in job banding determinations. Ibid. On January 9, 2014, the Legislature passed a concurrent resolution to prohibit the adoption of the Proposed Rule.[3] A. Con. Res. 215 (2013) (enacted).

         On May 7, 2014, the Commission adopted the First Amended Proposed Rule as N.J.A.C. 4A:3-3.2A, with an effective date of June 2, 2014. See 46 N.J.R. 1331(c) (June 2, 2014).

         In the wake of the Commission's adoption of the First Amended Proposed Rule as N.J.A.C. 4A:3-3.2A, the Legislature recommenced the Legislative Review Clause procedure. On June 16, 2014, the Legislature passed a concurrent resolution declaring the First Amended Proposed Rule to be contrary to Article VII, Section 1, Paragraph 2 of the New Jersey Constitution, and the legislative intent of the Civil Service Act.[4] S. Con. Res. 116 (2014) (enacted). In that concurrent resolution, the Legislature restated the findings set forth in its prior concurrent resolutions, except to delete the finding that the Rule disregarded the veterans' preference, and the citation to N.J.S.A. 11A:5-7, which addresses the veterans' preference in promotion. Ibid. The concurrent resolution stated that "[a]ny amended rule that contains a job banding provision or elimination of competitive promotional examinations" would be deemed by the Legislature to violate Article VII, Section 1, Paragraph 2 and "the Civil Service Act, including the spirit, intent, or plain meaning of N.J.S.A. 11A:3-1, N.J.S.A. 11A:4-1, or N.J.S.A. 11A:4-8." Ibid.

         The Legislature transmitted the concurrent resolution to the Commission and the Governor on June 17, 2014, thus commencing the thirty-day period for the Commission to amend or withdraw N.J.A.C. 4A:3-3.2A.

         On July 16, 2014, the Commission proposed a third iteration of the job banding rule (the Second Amended Proposed Rule). 46 N.J.R. 1765(a) (Aug. 18, 2014). The Commission stated that in order to avoid "the potential abuses alleged" in the Legislature's latest concurrent resolution, it had amended the job banding rule in two respects. Ibid. First, the Second Amended Proposed Rule required an appointing authority to "obtain approval of the advancement appointment selection process from the Chairperson of the Commission or designee before administering such process." Ibid. Second, the Second Amended Proposed Rule required the appointing authority, after determining an advancement appointment, to "rank the candidates for the announced advancement appointment, taking into account veterans' preference, if applicable, . . . and to document accordingly." Ibid.

         In the wake of the Commission's publication of its Second Amended Proposed Rule, the Legislature did not recommence the two-phase Legislative Review Clause process. Instead, on September 29, 2014, a new concurrent resolution was introduced in the General Assembly. See A. Con. Res. 192 (2014). That concurrent resolution addressed both the First Amended Proposed Rule, already adopted as N.J.A.C. 4A:3-3.2A, and the Second Amended Proposed Rule. Ibid. The Legislature acknowledged the Commission's amendments but stated that those amendments "would make only minor changes and are not responsive to the Legislature's finding . . . that job banding is not consistent with legislative intent as expressed in the language of the Civil Service Act." Ibid. Accordingly, the Legislature declared that those amendments "do not in any way limit [its] ability to proceed with invalidating the job banding rule pursuant to [the Legislative Review Clause]." Ibid.

         The Legislature thus resolved to invalidate N.J.A.C. 4A:3-3.2A "in its entirety" and declared that "any subsequent amendments to said regulation shall be deemed null and void." Ibid.

         On October 22, 2014, the Commission adopted the Second Amended Proposed Rule as N.J.A.C. 4A:3-3.2A. 46 N.J.R. 2277(b) (Nov. 17, 2014). On December 18, 2014, the Legislature passed ACR-192, the final concurrent resolution at issue in this appeal, to invalidate the job banding rule.[5]

         On February 9, 2015, the Chairman of the Commission issued a statement declaring job banding to be consistent with the Constitution and the Civil Service Act. The Chairman further asserted that the Legislature failed to properly invalidate N.J.A.C. 4A:3-3.2A in light of the Commission's proposal of the Second Amended Proposed Rule.

         The Commission subsequently approved two requests by appointing authorities to implement job banding pursuant to N.J.A.C. 4A:3-3.2A. In July 2015, the Commission authorized the Office of Information Technology to band four job titles "in order to streamline the appointment process with a more finely calibrated system which considers competencies and job performance." In re Job Banding for Software Dev. Specialist 1 & 2, & Network Adm'r 1 & 2, Office of Info. Tech., CSC No. 2016-651, at 2 (July 31, 2015). The Commission found that the key distinctions among the titles related to "the complexity of work performed and the level of supervision received" in the position, factors that could not accurately be tested by written examinations. Id. at 6.

         The following month, the Commission authorized the Department of Transportation to band three Highway Operations Technician titles. In re Changes in the State Classification Plan & Job Banding Request, Dep't of Transp., CSC Nos. 2016-778, -779, at 4 (Aug. 21, 2015). The Commission again found that the titles differed from one another primarily with respect to "the complexity of work performed and the level of supervision received" in the position, and that an employee's ability to perform more complex work with less supervision could not accurately be measured by competitive examinations. Id. at 3.

         The Commission's approval of the Office of Information Technology and Department of Transportation positions constituted final administrative determinations by the Commission, subject to appeal. See R. 2:2-3(a)(2).

         C.

         The Communications Workers of America, AFL-CIO (CWA), the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, AFL-CIO (IFPTE), and the Senate President and the Speaker of the General Assembly challenged the Commission's adoption and implementation of the job banding rule in six appeals, five of which are now before the Court.[6] The Appellate Division granted the Senate and the General Assembly leave to intervene in the two appeals filed by the Senate President and the Speaker of the General Assembly.

         The Appellate Division denied stay applications filed by the CWA and the IFPTE. It consolidated CWA's three appeals, but declined to consolidate the remaining three appeals.

         In an opinion by Judge Fasciale, an Appellate Division panel held that the Legislature properly invoked the Legislative Review Clause to invalidate N.J.A.C. 4A:3-3.2A. Commc'ns Workers, 447 N.J.Super. at 606. The panel concluded that the deferential standard that ordinarily applies in appellate review of agency determinations should not govern an invocation of the Legislative Review Clause. Id. at 600. Although it afforded the Legislature "substantial deference" in exercising its legislative veto, the panel reasoned that the Legislative Review Clause neither limits appellate courts' "traditional role of interpreting the law," nor "preclude[s] the judicial branch from exercising its role to enforce the checks and balances embodied in the State Constitution." Id. at 600-01. The panel declared that it retained its authority to review the Legislature's findings and conclusions to ensure that the Legislature has properly invalidated a rule or regulation rather than "passing new legislation, subject to the presentment clause." Id. at 601.

         The panel prescribed a three-pronged standard to govern appellate review:

We therefore hold that we may reverse the Legislature's invalidation of an administrative executive rule or regulation if (1) the Legislature has not complied with the procedural requirements of the Legislative Review Clause; (2) its action violates the protections afforded by the Federal or New Jersey Constitution; or (3) the Legislature's concurrent resolution amounts to a patently erroneous interpretation of "the language of the statute which the rule or regulation is intended to implement."
[Ibid. (quoting N.J. Const. art. V, § 4, ¶ 6).]

         Applying that standard to the dispute before it, the panel concluded that the Legislature had complied with the Legislative Review Clause's procedural requirements. Id. at 602-03. The panel found no violation of federal or state constitutional norms in the Legislature's action. Id. at 606. Finally, the panel concluded that the Legislature's determination that there was a conflict between the job banding rule and the Civil Service Act "does not amount to a patently erroneous interpretation of the language of the [statute]." Id. at 603. It reversed the Commissioner's final agency determinations, and vacated the implementation of N.J.A.C. 4A:3-3.2A. Id. at 606.

         We granted the Commission's petition for certification. 229 N.J. 590 (2017).[7]

         II.

         The Commission argues that the Legislature failed to comply with the Legislative Review Clause's procedural requirements when it exercised its legislative veto. It asserts that the Civil Service Act authorizes it to institute the practice of job banding and that job banding is not inconsistent with the Act's provisions regarding competitive examinations. The Commission contends that the Legislature improperly invoked the Legislative Review Clause to divest the Commission of its statutory authority and to manage an executive agency, thereby violating the New Jersey Constitution's separation of powers provision, N.J. Const. art. III, ¶ 1, and its Presentment Clause, N.J. Const. art. V, § 1, ¶ 14. The Commission urges the Court not to defer to the Legislature's veto of N.J.A.C. 4A:3-3.2A because that veto unconstitutionally abrogates executive authority.

         The Senate President, the Speaker of the General Assembly, the Senate, and the General Assembly argue that the Appellate Division panel conducted appropriate judicial review in these appeals and urge the Court to affirm the panel's judgment. They contend that the Legislature complied with the procedural and substantive requirements of the Legislative Review Clause, that it properly identified a conflict between the Civil Service Act's competitive examination provisions and the Commission's job banding rule, and that it acted within the authority conferred on it by the Legislative Review Clause when it invalidated that regulation.

         The CWA agrees that the Legislature complied with the Legislative Review Clause's procedural provisions and urges the Court to defer to the Legislature's finding of a conflict between the Civil Service Act and N.J.A.C. 4A:3-3.2A. The CWA characterizes the passage of a concurrent resolution as "an action squarely within the wheelhouse of the legislative branch of government" that is entitled to the same deference as that afforded to a statute. It contends that the Legislature properly concluded that N.J.A.C. 4A:3-3.2A contravened legislative intent, as expressed in N.J.S.A. 11A:3-1, N.J.S.A. 11A:4-1, and N.J.S.A. 11A:4-8.

         The IFPTE recognizes "no role for strict judicial review of the Legislature's findings that a regulation is contrary to legislative intent." It contends that if the Legislature follows the procedures prescribed by the Legislative Review Clause, judicial scrutiny of a veto should be limited to whether the Legislature has acted in a manner "repugnant to the Constitution." The IFPTE urges the Court to apply that proposed standard of review to uphold the legislative veto at issue in these appeals.

         III.

         We first determine the standard by which a court reviews a legislative veto under the Legislative Review Clause.

         That determination begins with the language of the provision itself. See State v. Buckner, 223 N.J. 1, 15 (2015) ("To understand the meaning and intent of a constitutional provision, courts look first to the plain language the framers used."); Comm. to Recall Robert Menendez from the Office of U.S. Senator v. Wells, 204 N.J. 79, 105 (2010) (same). "If the language is straightforward, 'the words used must be given their plain meaning.'" Buckner, 223 N.J. at 15 (quoting State v. Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, 160 N.J. 505, 527 (1999)). A constitutional provision "must be interpreted and applied in a manner 'that serves to effectuate fully and fairly its overriding purpose.'" Trump Hotels, 160 N.J. at 527 (quoting Dickinson v. Fund for Support of Free Pub. Schs., 95 N.J. 65, 95 (1983) (Handler, J., dissenting in part)).

         In our analysis, we strive to harmonize competing constitutional provisions. State v. Muhammad, 145 N.J. 23, 44 (1996). We "consider[] all the parts [of the Constitution] as a whole, and not one part as a separate and independent provision bearing no relation to the remainder." Behnke v. Highway Auth., 13 N.J. 14, 24 (1953).

         A.

         The Legislative Review Clause imposes a series of procedural requirements for an exercise of a legislative veto. The Legislature must state, in a concurrent resolution passed by both houses, its findings that an agency rule or regulation contravenes the legislative intent of the enabling statute. N.J. Const. art. V, § 4, ¶ 6. It must then "transmit [that] finding . . . to the Governor and the head of the Executive Branch Agency" responsible for the rule's proposal. Ibid. If the agency does not withdraw or amend the rule during the thirty-day window that the Clause prescribes, either the General Assembly or the Senate holds a public hearing regarding the rule's invalidation, the transcript of which must be "plac[ed] on the desks of the members of each House." Ibid. When twenty days have elapsed after the delivery of the transcripts, the Legislature may vote to invalidate the rule. Ibid.

         Those procedural requirements serve fundamental goals: to ensure that the executive agency and the public are on notice of the Legislature's objection to the rule or regulation and to grant the agency the opportunity to address that objection by amending or withdrawing the rule or regulation. If the Legislature has not complied with those requirements, its attempt to invalidate the agency's action is a nullity, and the reviewing court's inquiry ends.

         B.

         We next determine the scope of judicial review of the Legislature's finding that a rule or regulation is inconsistent "with the intent of the Legislature as expressed in the language" of the enabling act. N.J. Const. art. V, § 4, ¶ 6.

         1.

         In our inquiry, we harmonize the Legislative Review Clause with two other constitutional provisions, the separation of powers provision, N.J. Const. art III, ¶ 1, and the Presentment Clause, N.J. Const. art. V, § 1, ¶ 14.

         "[S]eparation of powers is a fundamental principle of American government, expressly provided for in the constitutions of many states, and implied in almost all the others and in the federal government from the creation of the three separate branches of government." David v. Vesta Co., 45 N.J. 301, 323 (1965); accord Commc'ns Workers of Am. v. Florio, 130 N.J. 439, 449 (1992). The New Jersey Constitution codifies the doctrine:

The powers of the government shall be divided among three distinct branches, the legislative, executive, and judicial. No person or persons belonging to or constituting one branch shall exercise any of the powers properly belonging to either of the others, except as expressly provided in this Constitution.
[ N.J. Const. art. III, ¶ 1.]

         Our Constitution vests "[t]he legislative power . . . in a Senate and General Assembly." N.J. Const. art. IV, § 1, ¶ 1. It grants "[t]he executive power . . . [to] a Governor." N.J. Const. art. V, § 1, ¶ 1. Finally, the Constitution vests "[t]he judicial power . . . in a Supreme Court, a Superior Court, and other courts of limited jurisdiction." N.J. Const. art. VI, § 1, ¶ 1.

         The separation of powers provision "was designed to 'maintain the balance between the three branches of government, preserve their respective independence and integrity, and prevent the concentration of unchecked power in the hands of any one branch.'" Florio, 130 N.J. at 449 (quoting David, 45 N.J. at 326). The provision recognizes "that each branch of government is distinct and is the repository of the powers which are unique to it; the members or representatives of one branch cannot arrogate powers of another branch." Knight v. Margate, 86 N.J. 374, 388 (1981). Separation of powers "is premised on the theory that government works best when each branch of government acts independently and within its designated sphere, and does not attempt to gain dominance over another branch." In re P.L. 2001, Chapter 362, 186 N.J. 368, 378 (2006).

         Nonetheless, "we have always recognized that the doctrine requires not an absolute division of power but a cooperative accommodation among the three branches of government." Florio, 130 N.J. at 449; accord Gen. Assembly v. Byrne, 90 N.J. 376, 382 (1982); Knight, 86 N.J. at 388. "[T]he doctrine necessarily assumes the branches will coordinate to the end that government will fulfill its mission." Brown v. Heymann, 62 N.J. 1, 11 (1972). The purpose of the separation of powers doctrine "is not to create three 'watertight' governmental compartments, stifling cooperative action among the executive, legislative and judicial branches," but to "guarantee a system in which one branch cannot claim or receive an inordinate power." In re P.L. 2001, 186 N.J. at 379 (quoting Florio, 130 N.J. at 450 (brackets removed)).

         Closely aligned with the separation of powers provision is our Constitution's Presentment Clause, N.J. Const. art. V, § 1, ¶ 14. That Clause provides in part:

When a bill has finally passed both houses, the house in which final action was taken to complete its passage shall cause it to be presented to the Governor before the close of the calendar day next following the date of ...

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