- Associated Press - Thursday, December 1, 2016

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey state employees will still be required to take competitive exams to be promoted, an appeals court ruled Thursday.

The three-judge panel said the state’s Civil Service Commission can’t implement a new rule that would allow some employees to be promoted without having to take the exams. The decision sided with the state Legislature, which had passed several resolutions since 2013 invalidating the rule that sought to use a process called “job banding.”

The decision came in an appeal of a commission-approved proposal last year to group some job titles in the state Department of Transportation.

Joined by two unions representing communications workers and engineers, lawmakers claimed the process goes against the intent of the state’s Civil Service Act, which requires promotions to be based on merit, measured by exam when possible.

They also argued the commission decision amounted to a violation of the separation-of-powers doctrine.

“The Legislature reasonably found that job banding without competitive promotional examinations was inconsistent with the legislative intent reflected in the plain language of the relevant provisions of the CSA,” the appeals court wrote.

Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, a lead sponsor of the legislation invalidating the rule, called Thursday’s decision “a great win for hard-working families, the taxpayers and the law.

“If the administration was allowed to do away with civil service exams in favor of job banding, a hardworking employee’s performance and aptitude would be largely ignored,” Gusciora said in a statement. “That would open the door for nepotism and cronyism, which we can never accept.”

The state attorney general’s office, which argued the case on behalf of the Civil Service Commission, said it is reviewing the decision.

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