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Governor Proposes Sweeping Civil-Service Reforms

October 31, 2014

Unruly, inept and ineffective state workers would face more swift and sure discipline under an overhaul of government personnel rules being pushed by Gov. Jan Brewer.

The long-awaited plan unveiled by the governor this week would gradually make most state workers “at-will employees,” meaning agency administrators would have more power to impose discipline for misbehavior or poor performance. Most state employees are now covered by laws and personnel rules that make imposing discipline costly and time consuming, according to the Goldwater Institute investigation, “Undisciplined Bureaucracy,” published in December 2010.

Brewer’s 275-page proposal is scheduled to be heard by the House Employment and Regulatory Affairs committee today. It is sponsored by Rep. Justin Olson, R-Mesa, a member of the committee.

The Goldwater Institute’s investigation exposed the cumbersome process that must be followed to discipline a government worker in Arizona. Bad behavior ranging from sleeping on duty to sexual harassment typically is not enough to get a government employee fired, the investigation showed. State workers are frequently put on prolonged periods of paid administrative leave, sent home to draw full pay and benefits while disciplinary investigations are conducted.

A month after the Goldwater Institute’s report was published, Brewer announced she would make revamping the state’s personnel rules one of her top priorities.

The centerpiece of Brewer’s package is to move most state employees to an at-will personnel system, similar to what is typical in the private sector.

“This is a debate that reformers must win,” Brewer said in a prepared statement announcing her plan.

Brewer’s plan would also give agency directors more flexibility in hiring workers and setting their pay, according to an outline released by the governor’s office. It also would limit the ability of the State Personnel Board to alter disciplinary decisions imposed by agency directors, and require that when layoffs occur they are based on an employee’s performance rather than years of seniority.

Learn more:

Goldwater Institute: Full Report: Governor Proposes Sweeping Civil-Service Reforms

Governor’s Office: Personnel Reform: Putting the Pieces Together for a Better Arizona

Goldwater Institute: Undisciplined Bureaucracy: The Difficulty in Disciplining a Government Worker



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