ICYMI: Gov. Christie using authority he may not have

In case you missed it, this story appeared in Sunday's edition of The Inquirer.

The days leading to the approval of New Jersey's budget in June were chaotic, with fears of a July 1 government shutdown and rumors about what Republican Gov. Christie planned to do with the Democrats' spending proposal.

On June 29, amid that din, Christie's office released an order to reorganize government - including a mandate to eliminate the Commission on Higher Education, which oversees the state's colleges and universities.

No one seemed to notice. Not the college and university unions that now are outraged. Not the Democrats who sponsored a 2010 law that expanded and strengthened the very same panel.

If they had, they might have made a crucial discovery: The commission, according to the 1994 statute that created it, is expressly exempted from the reorganization law that Christie used to kill it.

The episode is a window into the complexity of state government - and proof that in politics, timing is everything.

Contacted by The Inquirer last week, Christie's office said it was aware of the provision protecting the commission from dissolution. But spokesman Kevin Roberts did not say why he believed the reorganization order was legal or whether the commission would soon cease to exist.

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