Government of New Jersey
The government of the State of New Jersey is separated into three distinct branches: legislative, executive, and judicial. The powers of the state are vested by the state constitution, enacted in 1947, in a bicameral state legislature (consisting of the General Assembly and Senate), the Governor, and the state courts, headed the New Jersey Supreme Court. The powers and duties of these branches are further defined by acts of the state legislature, including the creation of executive departments and courts inferior to the Supreme Court. Like most states, the state allows the incorporation of county, and other local municipal government.
- 1 New Jersey State Constitution
- 2 Legislative
- 3 Executive branch
- 4 Judicial
- 5 Budget
- 6 County and municipal government
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
New Jersey State Constitution
New Jersey is governed under a constitution that was enacted in 1947 during a convention held at Rutgers University's College Avenue Gymnasium in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Much of the political structure of the 1844 constitution was carried into the 1947 document. The governor, elected by the people, was elected for a four-year term instead of a three-year term.
However, the old means of electing legislators with state senators decided by county boundaries was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States. Under this system, a county with a large population made equal to a county with a small population in having only one senator. The Supreme Court in Baker v. Carr 369 U.S. 186 (1962) and Reynolds v. Simms, 377 U.S. 533 (1964) found this to violate the "one-man, one-vote" doctrine embodied in the Federal Constitution's 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause. A constitutional convention held in 1966 created a state legislature with 40 coterminous legislative districts represented by one state senator and two state assemblymen.
In 2005, the constitution was amended to create the post of Lieutenant Governor, and to alter the order of succession in the event the governor's office was vacated. The resignation of two governors in 2001 and 2004 led to the state being led by several acting governor who simultaneously served as the president of the state senate. The issues regarding the separation of executive and legislative powers, and other concerns created a political controversy where public and media pressure sought a permanent solution to this problem which was inherited from previous state and colonial constitutions and political conventions.
New Jersey has been governed under the authority of several constitutional documents. As a colony, the first, the Concession and Agreement (1665), was written by the colony's Lords Proprietors, Sir George Carteret and John Berkeley, 1st Baron Berkeley of Stratton, which offered broad provisions for religious freedom. After the interests of Lord Berkeley and Carteret were sold to investors, New Jersey was divided into two distinct proprietary colonies West Jersey, and East Jersey each with their own constitutions enacted in 1681 and 1683 respectively. The proprietors were compelled to cede their political authority to the Crown, and both colonies were reunited in 1702 as a Crown colony under the direct command of Queen Anne.
At the onset of the American Revolution, New Jersey was governed by waning British colonial authority. William Franklin, the province's last royal governor before the American Revolution (1775–83), was marginalized in the last year of his tenure, as the province was run de facto by the Provincial Congress of New Jersey. Franklin considered the Provincial Congress to be an "illegal assembly" and attempted to reassert royal authority. In June 1776, the Provincial Congress formally deposed Franklin and had him arrested, adopted its first state constitution on July 2, 1776, and reorganized the province into an independent state. The newly formed State of New Jersey elected William Livingston as its first governor on August 31, 1776—a position he would be reelected to until his death in 1790.
While New Jersey was in a state of war, delegates of the Provincial Congress drafted the first constitution in a span of five days and ratified it only two days later. Its primary objective was to provide a basic governmental framework that would assume control of the territory after the collapse of royal authority and maintain civil order. This constitution served as the charter document for the State's government for the next 68 years. Among its provisions, the document granted suffrage rights to unmarried women and African-Americans who met the requirements of possessing sufficient assets or property as "freeholders". The legislature was elected each year and selected the state's governor. It did not specify an amendment procedure and had to be replaced entirely in a constitutional convention. The suffrage rights in the 1776 constitution were limited by the state legislature in 1807 to restrict voting rights to white male citizens who paid taxes. Women who voted in earlier elections tended to support the Federalist Party, and this effort was largely an effort of the Democratic-Republican Party's attempt to unify its factions for the 1808 presidential election.
The state's second constitution was adopted on June 29, 1844. Among its provisions was a distinct separation of powers into three branches (executive, legislative and judicial branches), limiting the right to vote to white males, and granted the people (as opposed to the legislature) the right of a popular election for the state's governor. The document limited the state government's ability to accumulate public debt.
The NJ Constitution provides for a bicameral Legislature consisting of a Senate of 40 members and an Assembly of 80 members. Each of the 40 legislative districts elects one Senator and two Assembly members. Assembly members are elected by the people for a two-year term in all odd-numbered years; Senators are elected in the years ending in 1, 3, and 7 and thus serve either four- or two-year terms.
The Legislature is responsible for the appointment of the New Jersey State Auditor, the only state officer which is appointed by the legislature.
The members of the New Jersey Legislature are chosen from 40 electoral districts. Each district elects one Senator and two Assemblymen. New Jersey is one of seven U.S. states (with Arizona, Idaho, Maryland, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Washington) in which districts for the upper and lower house of the legislature are coterminous. Districts are redefined decennially by the New Jersey Apportionment Commission following each U.S. Census, as provided by Article IV, Section III of the State Constitution.
The state executive is the Governor of New Jersey. He heads the executive branch, which is organized into departments, which may not number more than twenty according to the constitution. Temporary commissions may be allocated by law for special purposes outside of the departments.
There are eighteen departments and fifty-six agencies.
Prior to 2010, New Jersey was one of a few states in the United States that did not have a Lieutenant Governor to succeed to the governorship in the event of a vacancy in that office. For most of the state's (and previously the colony's) history, a vacancy in the position of governor was filled by the president of the State Senate (called the "Legislative Council" from 1776 to 1844), or during the colonial era by the president of the royal governor's Provincial Council. After several episodes where the state had multiple "acting governors" in the span of a few years following the resignations of Governor Christine Todd Whitman in 2001 and Governor James E. McGreevey in 2004, popular sentiment and political pressure from the state's residents and news media outlets sought a permanent and tenable solution to the issue of succession when the governor's office became vacant. A 2005 referendum to amend the constitution provided for the position of lieutenant governor to be created, to change the order of succession, and that the post would be filled in next gubernatorial election (2009).
The position of lieutenant governor is the second highest-ranking official in the state government. The lieutenant governor is elected on a ticket with the governor for a four-year term. The lieutenant governor's term is concurrent to the governor's four-year term. Because the position lacks distinct powers or purpose other than to exist solely as next in the order of succession, the state constitution requires that the lieutenant governor be appointed to serve as the head of a cabinet-level department or administrative agency within the Governor's administration. However, pursuant to the state constitution, a lieutenant governor cannot serve as the state's Attorney General.
Republican Kim Guadagno is the first to serve in the post in its modern form. Guadagno, previously the sheriff in Monmouth County, was chosen by Governor Chris Christie to be his running-mate on the Republican party ticket in the 2009 election. In addition to being lieutenant governor, Guadagno serves in Governor Christie's cabinet as New Jersey's 33rd Secretary of State.
Cabinet-level or principal departments
The state constitution provides that the governor appoints the heads of up to 20 principal departments. As of 2013, there are 15 cabinet-level or principal departments in the state's executive branch.
|Principal department||Title||Current officeholder||Notes|
|Department of Agriculture||Secretary||Douglas H. Fisher||
|Department of Banking and Insurance||Commissioner||Kenneth E. Kobylowski||
|Department of Children and Families||Commissioner||Allison Blake, Ph.D.||
|Department of Community Affairs||Commissioner||Richard E. Constable, III||
|Department of Corrections||Commissioner||Gary M. Lanigan||
|Department of Education||Commissioner||Chris Cerf||
|Department of Environmental Protection||Commissioner||Robert J. Martin||
|Department of Health||Commissioner||Mary E. O'Dowd, M.P.H.||
|Department of Human Services||Commissioner||Jennifer Velez, Esq.||
|Department of Labor and Workforce Development||Commissioner||Harold J. Wirths||
|Department of Law and Public Safety||Attorney General||John Jay Hoffman (acting)||
|Department of Military and Veterans Affairs||Adjutant General||Brigadier General Michael L. Cunniff|
|Department of State||Secretary of State||Kim Guadagno
(as Lieutenant Governor)
|Department of Transportation||Commissioner||James Simpson||
|Department of the Treasury||State Treasurer||Andrew P. Sidamon-Eristoff||
Supreme Court of New Jersey
The Supreme Court is the highest court in the state. It hears appeals from the Appellate Courts. It has the capacity, rarely exercised, to look into other cases within the judicial and executive branches.
The Court consists of a chief justice and six associate justices. All are appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of a majority of the membership of the state senate. Justices serve an initial seven-year term, after which they can be reappointed to serve until age 70. The New Jersey Supreme Court was created and its role established by the delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1947. As the highest court in the State, it replaced the prior Court of Errors and Appeals, created under the Constitution of 1844. It is the final judicial authority on all cases in the state court system, the sole determinant of the constitutionality of state laws with respect to the state constitution, and the arbiter and overseer of the decennial legislative redistricting.
|Name||Title||Sworn in||Term expires||Mandatory retirement||Appointing Governor||Political affiliation|
|Stuart Rabner||Chief Justice||June 29, 2007||June 29, 2014||June 30, 2030||Jon Corzine (D)||
|Jaynee LaVecchia||Associate Justice||February 1, 2000||Tenured||October 9, 2024||Christine Todd Whitman (R)||
|Barry T. Albin||Associate Justice||September 18, 2002||Tenured||July 7, 2022||Jim McGreevey (D)||
|Helen E. Hoens||Associate Justice||October 26, 2006||October 26, 2013||July 31, 2024||Jon Corzine (D)||
|Anne M. Patterson||Associate Justice||September 1, 2011||September 1, 2018||April 15, 2029||Chris Christie (R)||
|Vacancy (since May 20, 2010 when the seven-year term of Justice John E. Wallace, Jr. expired) (Democrat Mary Catherine Cuff temporarily assigned)||Associate Justice||Chris Christie (R)||
|Vacancy (since March 1, 2012 when Justice Virginia Long retired at age 70) (Republican Ariel A. Rodriguez temporarily assigned)||Associate Justice||Chris Christie (R)||
Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division
According to Mandel's New Jersey Appellate Practice, "The Appellate Division of New Jersey's Superior Court is the first level appellate court, with appellate review authority over final judgments of the trial divisions and the Tax Court and over final decisions and actions of State administrative agencies."
The state's Supreme Court held that "an appellate court's judgment provides 'the final directive of the appeals courts as to the matter appealed, setting out with specificity the court's determination that the action appealed from should be affirmed, reversed, remanded or modified'"
Superior Court of New Jersey
The Municipal Courts carry out most of the day-to-day work in the New Jersey courts, where simple traffic tickets, minor criminal offenses, and small civil matters are heard.
The Tax Court is a court of limited jurisdiction. Tax Court judges hear appeals of tax decisions made by County Boards of Taxation. They also hear appeals on decisions made by the Director of the Division of Taxation on such matters as state income, sales and business taxes, and homestead rebates. Appeals from Tax Court decisions are heard in the Appellate Division of Superior Court. Tax Court judges are appointed by the Governor for initial terms of seven years, and upon reappointment are granted tenure until they reach the mandatory retirement age of 70. There are 12 Tax Court judgeships.
The budget for fiscal year 2010 was $29.3 billion. In April 2010, the government was anticipating a $10.7 billion shortfall, the highest for any state in the country.
Property taxes rose 70% between 2000 and 2010. The real estate tax per homeowner in 2010 was $7,281.
County and municipal government
New Jersey has 21 counties, each of which is administered by a Board of Chosen Freeholders—a elected commission of either three, five, seven, or nine seats determined by the size of the county's population—that oversee a range of executive and legislative functions. In most counties, the freeholders are elected "at-large" where each freeholder represents the entire county. Hudson County divides the county into nine districts that are equal in size of population, and each district is represented by one freeholder. Essex County and Atlantic County have five freeholders representing districts and four freeholders elected at-large. The concept of a "freeholder" derives from the state's colonial legal and political history which granted the right to vote provide that a citizen own or otherwise possess sufficient property or assets.
In some counties, members of the Board of Chosen Freeholders perform both legislative and executive functions on a commission basis, with each Freeholder assigned responsibility for a department or group of departments. In other counties (Atlantic, Bergen, Essex, Hudson, and Mercer), there is a directly elected county executive who performs the executive functions while the Board of Chosen Freeholders retains a legislative and oversight role. In counties without an executive, a county administrator (or county manager) may be hired to perform day-to-day administration of county functions.
As of 2013, New Jersey's 21 counties are divided into 565 municipalities. That means there are no independent cities or consolidated city-counties in New Jersey. There is no unincorporated territory. Title 40 of the New Jersey Statutes provides the state's municipalities to be incorporated under five types (city, town, township, borough and village), with twelve forms of management. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that New Jersey has 250 boroughs, 52 cities, 15 towns, 244 townships, and 4 villages. Several municipalities continue to operate under special charters that do not conform with the government formats prescribed by the current statutes. New Jersey's municipalities range in population from towns with from small single-digit or double-digit populations (as in Tavistock or Walpack Township) or cities in which of several hundred thousand persons reside (such as Newark, Paterson or Trenton).
- History of New Jersey
- List of United States Senators from New Jersey
- New Jersey Provincial Congress
- United States congressional delegations from New Jersey
- State of New Jersey. New Jersey State Constitution (1947). Retrieved September 9, 2013.
- Avalon Project (Yale Law School). [http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/states/nj08.htm "Province of West New-Jersey, in America, The 25th of the Ninth Month Called November". Retrieved 9 September 2013.
- Avalon Project (Yale Law School). "The Fundamental Constitutions for the Province of East New Jersey in America, Anno Domini 1683". Retrieved September 9, 2013.
- Avalon Project (Yale Law School)."Surrender from the Proprietors of East and West New Jersey, of Their Pretended Right of Government to Her Majesty; 1702" from Leaming, Aaron and Spicer, Jacob. The Grants, Concessions, and Original Constitutions of the Province of New-Jersey. The acts passed during the proprietary governments, and other material trnasactions before the surrender thereof to Queen Ann. [sic] The instrument of surrender, and her formal acceptance thereof, Lord Cornbury's Commission and Introduction consequent thereon. (2nd Edition. Philadelphia: William Bradford, 1758) 600–618. Published online at the Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy, Yale Law School, Lillian Goldman Law Library. Retrieved April 5, 2013.
- Skemp, Sheila L. William Franklin: Son of a Patriot, Servant of a King. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), 211.
- Wright, Robert K., Jr., MacGregor, Morris J., Jr. "William Livingston" in Soldier-Statesmen of the Constitution. (CMH Publication 71-25) (Washington D.C.: United States Army Center of Military History, 1987), 103–105.
- United States Congress. "Livingston, William (1723–90)" in Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774 to present citing Klein, Milton M. The American Whig: William Livingston of New York. (New York: Garland Publishers, 1990/1993).
- State of New Jersey. "The New Jersey Constitution of 1776". Retrieved September 9, 2013.
- Klinghoffer, Judith Apter; and Elkins, Lois. "'The Petticoat Electors': Women's Suffrage in New Jersey, 1776-1807," Journal of the Early Republic (Summer 1992), 12(2):159-93.
- State of New Jersey. "State Government—State Constitution". Retrieved September 9, 2013.
- State of New Jersey. Departments and Agencies. Retrieved August 28, 2013.
- Jeffrey S. Mandel, New Jersey Appellate Practice (Gann Law Books), chapter 1:2-2
- Jeffrey S. Mandel, New Jersey Appellate Practice (Gann Law Books), chapter 12:1-1
- Jeffrey S. Mandel, New Jersey Appellate Practice (Gann Law Books), chapter 7:1
- State v. Randolph, 210 N.J. 330, 350 n.5 (2012), citing Jeffrey S. Mandel, New Jersey Appellate Practice (Gann Law Books), chapter 28:2
- Will, George F. (April 22, 2010). "The thunder from New Jersey". Washington, D.C.: Washington Post. pp. A19.
- U.S. Census Bureau. "New Jersey – Place and County Subdivision" Retrieved 28 September 2013.