Thursday, May 10, 2018

Ed Emery boosts bill that turns Missouri workers into at-will employees

(From Sen. Ed Emery, R-Lamar)

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 However, a consequence of the out-of-date system is that it prevents high-performing state employees from receiving the promotions and compensation they deserve.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.


Anonymous said...

I have worked with several state agencies and this bill will kill the incentive to bring about constructive criticism of state programs and bad administrators. The employees getting these incentives will be the brown nosing yes people that do nothing other than stroke the ego of the boss. Worse case possible. I have seen so many great employees in the MDC and DNR hamstrung by vindictive supervisors that I realized that to work in these agencies is brutal. Each department head is subject to being relieved every time a new governor is elected. A liberal governor who wants to protect the environment gets his persona and when a pro-business no environmental oversight governor comes in then everyone in the state suffer. The heads of these agencies needs to be appointed based on their demonstrated science background for a ten year term renewable if proven performance.

Anonymous said...

Not a problem. Ed is like every Republican who thinks they will remain in power forever. Consider when the Democrats actually gain control in Missouri again, this bill will make it so much simpler to clean out the Republicans holding state jobs and put our own people in.

Anonymous said...

Great. That's all we need. "Tenure" for government employees. It's already near impossible to fire for cause.

Here's an idea. How about the department head work for their boss, the governor, and implement the policies that the governor wants done, since he was duly elected by THE PEOPLE.


Harvey Hutchinson said...

I’m all for Conservation- I’m a DU and NRA member, hunt and fish and own guns. I believe in the environment and Chief Irineyes crying at the litter.
However giving beaureacrats 10 years of unfettered fiefdoms with no supervision is absurd.

Senator Emery is spot I. With his bill.

Harvey Hutchinson 303-522-6622 voice&text

Anonymous said...

This is the usual nonsense from politicians looking to push their own agenda which, in this case, is to return to a patronage system. Emery says the merit systems stifles promotions, favors longevity, etc. Not true. I worked for the State for over 20 years and was promoted several times, and I can point to many staff who have earned and received promotions. I gave some of those promotions to qualified and valued staff. It happens every day. Sometimes you need to move to another city where the vacancy exists, but that is a personal decision.

Even within the merit system, I have seen blatant attempts to punish or fire employees inappropriately to suit the whims of an upper manager. Remove merit protections, and employees will have even less motivation for staying with the State. Without the protection of the merit system, I, myself, would have been fired as a division director sought to curry favor for jobs after his retirement. He failed in that attempt! And, I might add, one argument is that you can't fire state employees under the merit system. Untrue. I fired several staff for incompetence or misbehavior on the job.

I have also seen people hired, within the merit system, out of political favoritism. One instance involved the son of a friend of the governor who we were told to hire even though we didn't have or need the position. Another involved a staff person for a senator who was given a job in exchange for the senator's support of the department's budget. So, even though the merit system can be worked for political reasons, removing the protection of the merit system blatantly opens state employees up to political motives. Missouri state employees are among the lowest paid in the nation, but benefits and merit protections are some of the reasons for staying with the State.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like another power play and destabilization tactic. Nepotism writ large. Party before state.

Anonymous said...

You want a good look at the results of this type of legislation, just take a look at the City of New Orleans. A new mayor took office this month accompanied by mass firings of city employees and replacement by the friends and relatives of the Mayor's friends and supporters. In the meantime the City is floundering.

Anonymous said...

That's a risk of government employment. You serve at the whim of the new leadership. So be it. They should have employees that they trust. Then, if nothing else, if they fail, they have a hard time running from the fact that they owned the leadership of the departments.

Meanwhile, if the city is floundering, they probably deserve it. They have been "led" by the same party since 1874.


Harvey Hutchinson said...

I lived in Nes Orleans for years.

It’s controlled by Democratic Machnes; always has been and always will be

Harvey HUTCHINSON 303-522-6622 voice&text