Tenn. Gov's Civil Service Bill Headed to His Desk

LUCAS L. JOHNSON II | Associated Press

NASHVILLE (AP) – Gov. Bill Haslam's plan to overhaul state civil service rules headed to him Thursday to become law despite opposition from some lawmakers whose constituents are uncomfortable with parts of the legislation.

The proposal passed the Senate 30-3 on Thursday, a day after being approved 74-19 in the House.

The measure would make it easier for executive branch employees to be hired and fired, and would allow for merit raises for high-performing workers – and pay decreases for poor ones.

Other elements of the bill would require written performance standards and annual evaluations, set a minimum of three candidates to be interviewed for openings, and reduce the minimum layoff notice from three months to 30 days.

The bill eliminates bumping rights based on seniority, but retains preferential hiring practices for military veterans.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis was one of the dissenting votes. He said there needs to be more discussion on the legislation, particularly in the area that deals with evaluations because of the subjectivity of numerous state jobs.

"Many of our jobs will be very subjective, and that will lead to confusion," Kyle said.

Sen. Charlotte Burks said numerous employees have told her they're concerned about the proposal's new appeal process being fair. Under the legislation, the governor will appoint a nine-member appeals board.

"The appeals process, they sound good," said the Monterey Democrat, who voted against the bill. "We'll just have to wait and see how they work."

When the measure passed the House, Republican Rep. Bill Dunn of Knoxville, who carried the bill on behalf of the Haslam administration, noted that negotiations with the Tennessee State Employees Association had resulted in about 20 changes to the original bill. They included that seniority will remain a factor in making decisions on staffing changes.

Rep. Lois DeBerry said she understands various parties reached an agreement, but the Memphis Democrat said she also continues to hear from concerned people in her district.

"They may have a disagreement with the State Employees Association," she said. "That's a really touchy bill."


Read SB2246 at capitol.tn.gov

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