Thursday, May 10, 2018
Ed Emery boosts bill that turns Missouri workers into at-will employees
We are in the final two weeks of the 2018 legislative session, and a number of controversial issues remain unresolved. Additionally, the state’s 2019 operating budget must be completed by this Friday, May 11th. The need for bona fide negotiation and compromise is critical throughout the legislative session, but particularly in the final days. Tuesday, May 8, was not our best day. Session convened at approximately 10:30 a.m., and by 3 p.m., the Senate had not voted on a single bill due to a filibuster of a benevolent tax credit bill. The filibuster had ended by the time I finished this report. Thank you for your prayers.
In the front of the Senate Chamber is engraved “Free and Fair Discussion Will Ever Be Found the Finest Friend to Truth.” The Senate filibuster can be a useful tool, and if there is a noble purpose to the filibuster, that is it: free and fair discussion to force debate, negotiation and compromise. Such is at the core of our republican form of government. Too often, however, that is not the atmosphere the filibuster presents. It has become a tool used more to delay and avoid compromise than to encourage it. It has been weaponized in order to gain power over the Senate, rather than promote open discussion and good policy. Such is a problem, which we must address in upcoming sessions.
Changing the subject to last week’s legislative progress - accomplishments included perfection of Senate Bill 1007, which modifies Missouri’s public employee merit system. For years, Missouri state employees have been the lowest paid state employees in the nation. On average, state workers make $39,682 a year. At the same time, Missouri has more state employees per population than the surrounding states of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Tennessee.
Missouri has nearly 55,000 employees, about half of which are on the “Missouri Merit System,” a 70-year old system that is inconsistent with the opportunities that a free and competitive market offers. The system was designed to protect employees from arbitrary actions, personal favoritism and political coercion. However, a consequence of the out-of-date system is that it prevents high-performing state employees from receiving the promotions and compensation they deserve. It elevates longevity over productivity; permanence over performance.
Senate Bill 1007 modifies the current system to allow directors to reward high-performing state workers. Under today’s system, employees are hired based on their performance on standardized tests. Senate Bill 1007 enhances the state’s ability to attract, retain and motivate qualified employees. Agencies will continue to hire based on merit and qualifications, but there will no longer be a “merit exam.” The measure also makes it easier for directors to hire or fire state employees without violating state or federal regulations.
The reforms will keep state and federal employee protections in place while providing a path for directors to promote and reward exemplary employees. If Missouri hopes to employ good workers, SB 1007 will help; it reforms the out-of-date “Merit System” that prevents us from advancing talented employees. An updated system can make our government more efficient while offering many of the same competitive incentives the free and competitive market offers. The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for their consideration.
Thank you for reading this legislative report. You can contact my office at (573) 751-2108 if you have any questions. We welcome your prayers for the proper application of state government.