J.C. Palmer of Huron raised the issue of public employee residence in an earlier comment section. Now New Jersey Governor Chris Christie raises the question of public employees' freedom to live where they want by signing a bill requiring public workers to live in New Jersey:
Gov. Chris Christie announced today he signed a bill (S1730) into law that will require public workers hired after Sept. 1 — from teachers and cops to all local, county and state work employees — to live in the Garden State.
New hires outside the state's borders will have a year from getting the job to pack up and move. Current public workers will not be affected.
New Jersey is the first state in the nation to enact a law mandating a residency requirement for its public employees, according to National Conference of State Legislatures. Pennsylvania law requires only its civil service employees to live within the state, according to the New Jersey Senate Majority officials.
"With this law we are simply saying that as matter of policy, when it comes to providing public employment opportunities in New Jersey, we are looking to put our own residents first," said Sen. Donald Norcross (D-Camden), one of the bill's sponsors. "This will help to support our workforce, while at the same time keeping our tax dollars in the state. This is not only sound public policy, but it makes good economic sense" [Matt Friedman, "Gov. Christie signs bill requiring all new public employees to move to N.J. within year of hire," NJ.com, 2011.05.19].
On first reading, this government mandate on its employees seems a remarkable intrusion on individual liberty outside the workplace. Certainly my boss, whether public or private, has the right to tell me when and where I will work. While I'm there on the clock, my boss can tell me what I can do and say (within certain Constitutional boundaries).
But this residency mandate says that my employer can tell me what to do with the two-thirds of my time each day that he doesn't pay me for. It limits one of the most personally defining choices a person can make, what place to call home. If a Manhattan resident just happens to find work she likes across the bridge at a New Jersey public school, can the state of New Jersey really order her to abandon her Manhattan apartment?
The residency mandate also smells of discrimination. Can South Dakota really declare that it will only hire South Dakotans for certain jobs? We have immigration rules that allow us to hire only American citizens and not foreigners, but what immigration rules give states authority to exclude Minnesotans, Iowegians, and other such semi-exotic outsiders?
As oppressive gravy, Republican Christie seems to be trumping local control. The law applies not just to his direct employees, but to local governments as well. Put that in South Dakota terms: imagine Governor Daugaard told the school districts in Brookings, Flandreau, and Brandon that they couldn't hire teachers who happen to have nice houses across the border in Minnesota. Whither local control, Republicans?
New Jersey's employee residency mandate goes too far. As long as an employee is a legal citizen, and as long as that employee shows up for work on time, where that employee spends her off-duty hours is none of the employer's business.