Tuesday, March 19, 2013

House committee advances bill undoing classified system of state employment

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

Republicans on a House committee on Monday approved a measure that would undo the protections of the classified employment system for many current state workers and future hires.

House Bill 2384 now goes to the full House for consideration.

The legislation was proposed by Appropriations Chairman Marc Rhoades, R-Newton, but during a public hearing on the measure no one testified in favor of it.

Rep. Jerry Henry of Atchison, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said, “This is a pretty hasty bill. I’m concerned we didn’t go through the proper channels.”

HB 2384 would make all state attorneys, supervisors and information technology workers unclassified. After July 1, all new hires — or any current state employee who is either transferred, demoted or promoted, or is promoted into a different position — would be unclassified. The bill would exempt employees of public safety agencies from the changes.

Henry said drastically altering a decades-old system of classified employees who can appeal job dismissals and demotions through the Civil Service System deserved an in-depth study.

Rhoades said based on anecdotal information he has received, agency heads want to have more flexibility to reward and manage employees.

Appropriations Vice Chairman Gene Suellentrop, R-Wichita, said the bill will allow supervisors to bring in top qualified people in information technology and legal support.

But representatives of state workers said the bill would mean jobs would be awarded based on politics instead of merit.