POLITICS
02/20/2013 03:30 pm ET | Updated Feb 20, 2013

Kansas Creating Bill To End Civil Service Protections

Republican lawmakers in Kansas are finalizing "phase one" in a plan to eliminate the state's civil service protections.

The state House Appropriations Committee is completing a draft of legislation that would allow for more jobs in state government to be taken out of the state's civil service system and made "at-will" employees, the Topeka Capitol-Journal reports. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Marc Rhoades (R-Newton) said the legislation is part of a larger plan for the state's 70-year-old civil service system.

The Capitol-Journal reports:

"We want to begin to move toward unclassifying all employees in state government," Rhoades said.

Rhoades said he believes doing away with the civil service protections will give state agencies more flexibility to operate, consolidate functions and institute performance measures.

"Right now I think the system of classified and unclassified works against creativity," Rhoades said.

Under Rhoades' plan, all state employees would become "at-will" and could be replaced at any time, including during a change in the governor's office. The plan is similar to one Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) adopted last year. Under Brewer's plan, many state workers became at-will employees when they accepted a pay raise and all new state employees were considered at-will.

Governing.com reported that Brewer said eliminating the civil service system allowed her to provide performance incentives for state workers.

Brownback spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag told The Huffington Post that the governor "will carefully consider and review the bill" if the state legislature passes it. She did not say if he was considering signing the bill.

State Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley (D-Topeka) told the Capitol-Journal that the bill was a "power grab" by Brownback and would politicize state jobs.

Georgia, Florida and Texas eliminated civil service protections in the 1990s, according to a 2002 report by Governing. The Governing report indicated that "it seems unlikely that a parade of states" would join the three in eliminating the job protections.

The Kansas legislation comes as lawmakers are tackling a series of bills to overhaul the role of the state's public employee unions. Among the bills are legislation to prohibit public employee unions from obtaining funds for the unions' political action committee through automatic payroll deductions and a bill that would end public employee collective bargaining. A lobbyist for the Kansas Chamber of Commerce told a state House committee in January that the PAC legislation was part of a goal to "get rid of public employee unions" in the state.

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