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Appeals Panel Nixes Christie COAH Plan

Court rules that the governor lacks authority to reorganize an independent agency, saying future of Council on Affordable Housing is up to state Legislature.

A state appeals panel has overturned Gov. Chris Christie's reorganization of New Jersey's affordable housing bureaucracy, saying the governor lacked authority to abolish an independent agency.

Christie issued an executive order in June 2011 that eliminated the state Council on Affordable Housing and transferred its responsibilities to the state Department of Community Affairs.

Christie says he will appeal the decision.

"We are obviously disappointed with the court decision, which only perpetuates the nightmare New Jersey has endured for decades with the COAH bureaucracy," said Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak.

In its ruling, written by Judge Philip S. Charchman, the appellate panel said that the state Reorganization Act "does not grant the Governor the power to abolish a legislatively created, representative, independent authority that is 'in but not of' the Executive Branch or any department in that branch of the government." The panel found that Christie "exceeded his authority under the Reorganization Act in abolishing COAH."

The authority to "abolish COAH rests exclusively with the Legislature," the panel said.

"The framers (of the state constitution) acknowledged the principle that the power to create and abolish such agencies and to alter such functions resided within the legislative process, involving both the Legislature and the Executive."

COAH had been created in the early 1980s by the state Legislature in response to two lawsuits — known as Mount Laurel I and Mount Laurel II — that ruled that towns had a responsibility to provide affordable housing within their borders. The rulings banned so-called exclusionary zoning — which the court defined as zoning designed to limit housing available to low-income residents.

The Legislature created COAH to create and oversee new affordable housing rules, which mandated that towns provide housing. Many suburban communities opposed COAH and it has been a point of political contention for nearly 25 years.

The Fair Share Housing Center, an advocacy group that brought the suit, lauded the appellate panel's ruling.

“The Appellate Division properly found, based on a careful reading of the original intent of New Jersey’s statutes and constitution, that Gov. Christie simply does not have the power to unilaterally abolish independent agencies he doesn’t like," said Associate Director Kevin D. Walsh.

"In doing so, the Court properly protected the independence of agencies such as the Election Law Enforcement Commission, State Ethics Commission, Public Defender, and dozens of other agencies that would have been subject to gubernatorial abolition if the plan for COAH had been upheld. The Court required the diverse interests represented in independent agencies to have a voice, as the Legislature intended.”

Bill Dressel, executive director of the state League of Municipalities, said the ruling does not alter the need for housing reform in New Jersey.

"When legislative efforts reached an impasse, the governor reasonably sought to use his powers under the Reorganization Act," he said. "The reversal by the court does not obscure the need for reform. The only issue is what shape the reform will take.”

State Sen. Ray Lesniak, (D-Union), who was the prime sponsor of the housing legislation vetoed by Christie, backed the court decision and added that any reform plan must meet court muster.

"In order to develop a plan which will stand the test of court scrutiny, we have to work together to create an alternative to COAH that actually works," he said. "We cannot simply throw COAH out the window without first developing a mechanism which seriously addresses the shortage of affordable housing opportunities in New Jersey communities."

What do you think? Does the governor have the power to abolish agencies? Should COAH be abolished? Add your voice in the comments.

Rik Magee March 10, 2012 at 05:43 PM
Support Gov Christie he isdoing a good job for N.J. I do not support his backing of Romney however. N.J. in 1963 was the Second richest State in the Union. What happened since can be blamed on the Democrats who gave the state away! Sorry, Sports Fans, read the facts!
Joe R March 10, 2012 at 06:33 PM
@Rik Magee Huh? NJ is still a very rich state, it's in the top 5, it still has among the highest concentration of millionaires, it's in the top tier of states for wealth. NJ has some of the richest counties in the whole US. Christie is a disaster for NJ education, he is slashing and destroying it. He's horrible. He uses the bully tough guy image to fool a lot of people into thinking that he's doing a good job. In 1963, the governor was Richard J. Hughes (Democrat). NJ is still an industrial power house, where do you get this garbage that NJ is a poor state on par with Alabama or Mississippi? In 2009, NJ had the most millionaires in the country (by percentage of its population). NJ is amongst the richest states in the country.
Christina Warren March 10, 2012 at 06:59 PM
Thank you for the info Michele! I will be doing my research. It is understood from what is said above, that we have a right to opt out of the Mt. Laurel but COAH is our protection of we don't. I know that Tinton Falls faces this each year and that is why we see all the new units being added. Information appreciated!
Christina Warren March 10, 2012 at 07:02 PM
Free speech is applied when you are trying to express your opinion using good moral judgment knowing that the implication of your statement does not impede on the life and liberty given another human being. If people stop saying stupid insulting comments, and try to say it with more tact, they may leave it up.
WD March 10, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Boy, do these comments get off topic. The court ruling only indicates that Christie over stepped the bounds of his office. The ruling doesn't state whether COAH is good or bad. It is up to the legislature to do anything about COAH. This was a good ruling and reenforces the checks and balances of our government. While Christie may want to dictate his will on the State, he can't.
Eggs-n-Toast March 11, 2012 at 02:14 PM
Sean, You're a young, interesting guy, who seems to be interested in social issues.... I'm curious to know a few of your reasons for thinking Ron Paul would be a good president.
Eggs-n-Toast March 11, 2012 at 08:17 PM
Sean, is that you? He also believes a lot of other things too... like: Efforts to fund abortion ranks among stupidest policies. (Apr 2011) Deregulate the adoption market. (Apr 2011) Abortion laws should be a state-level choice. (Apr 2011) Abortion causes inconsistent moral basis for value of life. (Apr 2011) Day-after pill allows individual moral choice. (Apr 2011) Abortion is murder. (Apr 2008) Roe v. Wade decision was harmful to the Constitution. (Apr 2008) Define life at conception in law, as scientific statement. (Feb 2008) Protecting the life of the unborn is protecting liberty. (Feb 2008) Get the federal government out of abortion decision. (Nov 2007) Delivered 4000 babies; & assuredly life begins at conception. (Sep 2007) Nominate only judges who refuse to legislate from the bench. (Sep 2007) Save “snowflake babies”: no experiments on frozen embryos. (Sep 2007) No tax funding for organizations that promote abortion. (Sep 2007) Embryonic stem cell programs not constitutionally authorized. (May 2007)
Paul J. DiBartolo March 11, 2012 at 10:09 PM
You seem to have a thing for abortion, EggsnToast. Allow me to ask a few questions. After 50 Million abortions in the U.S. alone, when might a thinking individual think "enough"? After almost 40-years of Abortion-on-Demand which was supposed to give us "every child a wanted child," we have even more out of wedlock births than ever before. So, when do we stop believing the lie?
Joe R March 11, 2012 at 11:16 PM
This is way, way off topic but a decision about whether to have an abortion or not is a decision that should be between the doctor, the woman and her family. If you don't want an abortion, if abortion is against your beliefs, then don't have one. No one is forced to have an abortion. If abortion is criminalized again, women will be forced into dangerous back alley abortions. The rich will go overseas to get safe abortions.
Christina Warren March 12, 2012 at 12:03 AM
Still off topic, but i just had to say...If they don't want babies, STOP HAVING SEX! It is not a form of birth control! Fact is, if it's not available, how much do you think those pregnancy statistics would drop???
Paul J. DiBartolo March 12, 2012 at 12:19 AM
You forget, Joe, that we as taxpayers have been asked to pay for these abortions. Now we're being asked to pay for birth control for everybody as well. The decision to seek an abortion is definitely between a woman and whomever she feels it necessary to bring into the decision. Now, if that's the case, keep the rest of us out of it and stop asking us to subsidize such behavior.
Paul J. DiBartolo March 12, 2012 at 12:25 AM
It's funny how Newspeak has developed in our day. You (generically) can be PRO-choice but I am ANTI-abortion. PRO-choice usually means an end to life while ANTI-abortion is an attempt to save a life. Hmmmmmmmmmmm... Birth Control...just how is it controlling birth? If it's not an abortifacient it is controlling conception not birth. On the other hand, if it is an abortifacient it has nothing to do with controlling birth other than to make it an impossibility because it is ending a life that will never get a chance at birth. George Orwell would be proud of us.
Joe R March 12, 2012 at 01:25 AM
The moderator is probably having agida at the course of this discussion. But......who knows what the figures were for abortions before Roe vs. Wade, since everything was done in secret, in the back alley. So the solution to abortion is to control the sex lives of Americans??? Good luck with that. Humans will act like humans. News flash, not all abortions happen as a result of women being sluts or loose sex, whatever that is. Oh yeah, loose sex is what poor people do, according to folks like Limbaugh. Many women who have had abortions are also women who desperately wanted children and were trying to have children. There are a myriad number of reasons why women have abbortions and it does not mean that they are sluts, are loose women or that they were irresponsible in any way. Will criminalizing abortion really reduce abortions? How would anyone know since we have no way to compare before and after figures; illegal abortions were done in secret, below the radar.
Project Bluebeam March 12, 2012 at 02:13 AM
If you want government out of the bedroom, than don't ask government to fund birth control and/or abortions. Condoms are inexpensive, abstinence is free. If you make a bad decision, then you have to deal with it, not the taxpayers.
Patrick March 12, 2012 at 02:18 AM
Federal monies do NOT pay for abortions that are of a family planning nature... end of. just google it if you don't believe me. and BTW Paul, I have issue with the COAH haters because its just code for NIMBY.
Project Bluebeam March 12, 2012 at 02:30 AM
Seriously dude, its in Obamacare....“We have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it”. Remember?
Patrick March 12, 2012 at 02:44 AM
No, it isn't. According to the Department of Health and Human Service’s website, "by law, Title X funds may not be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning." Medicaid funding is restricted by the Hyde Amendment to only abortion cases involving rape, incest or endangerment to the life of the mother. http://www.factcheck.org/2011/04/planned-parenthood/ can we please move on.
Christina Warren March 12, 2012 at 09:59 AM
No, not all sex results from women being sluts, some results from BOYS being idiots. I said boys, not men. Categorize yourself as you see fit, The fact is we live in a sick world that does what they please. So what, if you can't beat 'em join 'em??? No, we have leaders like Christie that have to man up and be the guy everyone hates, to try to fix the vase that the kids broke by playing ball in the house, so to say. Not every one like correction, but it needs to be done to maintain some kind of order. Kudos to Him for trying!
WheresTheBallot March 12, 2012 at 11:16 AM
Patrick - Go to the source. Look at page 65 of the actual bill. http://docs.house.gov/energycommerce/ppacacon.pdf "(ii) ABORTIONS FOR WHICH PUBLIC FUNDING IS AL- LOWED.—The services described in this clause are abortions for which the expenditure of Federal funds appropriated for the Department of Health and Human Services is permitted, based on the law as in effect as of the date that is 6 months before the begin- ning of the plan year involved." Why would there be a clause like this if funding for abortions was not allowed?
Patrick March 12, 2012 at 11:32 AM
@WheresTheBallot, what does this have to do with COAH? and I'd imagine that this refers to abortions covered under the Hyde amendment. Rape, incest, health of the mother. please move on. or write a blog post for Patch about abortion.
Eggs-n-Toast March 12, 2012 at 01:17 PM
No Paul, I don't have a "thing for abortion". I have a thing for right to privacy - between women and their doctors. I have a thing for LEGAL medical procedures remaining LEGAL - regardless of irrational and erroneous religious perceptions that forbid choice for women. I have a thing for not allowing insurance companies, and/ or religious NUTS deciding what is or is not to be covered when it comes to prescription drugs, or medical procedures. If you have health insurance of any kind, whether state or private it should cover everything that is recommended and/or prescribed by a doctor. Don't want government to subsidize birth control in any way? Then make it over the counter at about $5 a month. I'm sure women would be glad to pay for it themselves if it was affordable and available without insurance companies or the government monitoring and managing their sex lives. If you take out the religious nonsense and stick to medical science and rational thinking, early-term abortion is a medical procedure.... one that is no one's business but the woman's. Period.
Boris Kofman March 13, 2012 at 12:14 PM
Glad to see at least the judicial branch doing its duty in this case.
Sal May 09, 2012 at 04:28 AM
Forget COACH___The real issue here is a State Governor acting as though he is either a Dictator or a King. So far the courts have ruled that Gov. Christie VIOLATED state law and that is the real issue here. We cannot allow anyone to violate state laws. If our Governor believes he has a right to Violate State laws that he does not like___then why should any citizen follow any law that the citizen does not like? We certainly do not need Dictators inside the USA who believe that they alone are the sole power.
Stan Walker May 09, 2012 at 09:26 AM
Where is the affordable housing in these neighborhoods? http://virtualglobetrotting.com/states/NJ/
Winston May 09, 2012 at 10:44 AM
This is off topic....but why do left wing liberals/socialists always change the subject to the imaginary abortion issue that no one really believes is an issue or even cares about....off topic but...just sayin!
Paul J. DiBartolo May 09, 2012 at 12:02 PM
Actually, that's exactly what the president seems intent on doing and well before Christie came along, so I'm wondering why that doesn't bother you?
ymbdfa May 18, 2012 at 01:05 PM
Patrick, that went so far over Schu's head he couldn’t get it with a fire truck ladder. First you have to explain to Schu what Government is supposed to do before you can expect him to understand why it should not avoid its responsibility. What Schu and the like fail to grasp is its comments made by Governor Christie and others with his elitist mentality from the past who said comment like Christies ever famous "If you can't afford to live in New Jersey then Leave,” is exactly why COAH exists in the first place. I just wonder who is going to work for all these multi-millionaires when the middle class exiles the state.
Chris Welch May 18, 2012 at 01:51 PM
Stan - there is affordable housing in Moorestown. PS - Terrell Ownes doesn't live here anymore.
Richard Magee May 18, 2012 at 02:50 PM
Joe R. In 1963 New Jersey was the Richest state in the Union. I knew and was photographed with Gov. Hughes. His wife was very nice. When he asked me "If I was going to vote for him" I replied "you're a nice guy but I am not voting for you. Gov Christie is doing a good job in restoring N.J. NJ had many bad Governors that led to formation of the NJ Tax Payers Assoc. (if it still exists). Way back Gov Hoffman tried to pass a wage and Income tax and the NJTA forced him to repeal it within two days! They found the second set of Books for NJ. I lived in NJ. NJ had the worst Educational Board. Diploma mill state. The Teachers Union is destroying NJ with falsehoods and powerful Lobbyists in Trenton. I could go on and on. Just do the research. The Mafia presence in NJ is still heavy. ~Rick Magee, FL
Richard Magee May 18, 2012 at 02:59 PM
Sal, mi amici, NJ has had many Bad Governors and I don't feel Christie is one of them. Both parties have contributed to NJ history in that regard. Christie is doing what the People elected him to do. Clean up NJ both Financially and internally. For that he will constantly be maligned by opponents of reformation. Look at the mess the NJ TrnPk has become. Filthy! It used to be a Model for the Country. ~Rick Magee, FL


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