Feb 172012

Governor Jan Brewer and legislative leaders unveiled an innovative personnel reform plan modeled after private-sector workforce practices Tuesday, with the aim to make state government more accountable–and cost-effective–to the Arizona taxpayer.

“The modernization of the state’s personnel system has been a long time coming. I am thankful to Rep. Justin Olson for helping to lead the legislative effort to enact this important personnel reform,” Governor Brewer noted in a press release issued by her office. “The current ‘merit system’ is a misnomer. It discourages our best state workers while protecting the weakest performers.”

Currently, the state has about 36,000 employees operating under nine separate and distinct personnel systems. About one-third of the state workforce will be eligible for retirement over the next five years.

“This is an important piece of legislation that will allow for the state to ensure the quality of its workforce,” said Speaker of the House Andy Tobin, R-Dewey. “I appreciate Representative Olson’s willingness to champion this legislation and increase the state’s flexibility in ensuring the high professional caliber of state employees.”

“I have no doubt that reform is needed in this area,” said Senate President Steve Pierce, R-Prescott. “I am looking forward to working with the governor and the House of Representatives to create a more efficient and accountable personnel system for Arizona’s workers.”

“HB 2571 will implement common sense reforms,” said Rep. Olson, R-Mesa. “It will bring Arizona’s state personnel system in-line with the most effective practices of the private sector.”

The new personnel system reportedly intends to eliminate the red tape and bureaucracy often associated with government–with the primary goal being increased efficiency and, ultimately, savings to the taxpayer. Gov. Brewer, in conjunction with the Arizona Department of Administration (ADOA), has proposed five reforms to the personnel system:

* Consolidation of personnel systems. Currently, state employees within the Executive Branch operate under nine separate personnel systems. This proposal would consolidate these multiple systems into one. ADOA’s Human Resource Division (HRD) will continue oversight of the new system.

* Transition of the state workforce to uncovered, at-will status. Currently, about three-quarters of state employees have covered status. With this proposal, it is estimated that more than 82 percent of the workforce would be uncovered after four years. Most existing state employees would not automatically lose their covered status, but all future hires would be at-will, uncovered. Additionally, any covered employees who accept a promotion would become uncovered. Covered employees in positions that require full authority peace officer certification and correctional officers I, II and III would maintain their covered status.

* Improved management of the workforce. Personnel reform would empower supervisors to manage their employees, making the workforce more accountable and agile in responding to the needs of Arizona taxpayers.

* Restructuring of the grievance and appeal system. Following personnel reform, all employees still would be able to submit a complaint regarding unlawful discrimination or harassment. The State Personnel Board would remain for covered employees, but would lose authority to overturn or modify disciplinary actions. Similar modifications would be made to the Law Enforcement Merit System Council.

* Updating human resources practices. Approval of this proposal would usher in a host of HR practices modeled after those that are commonplace in the private sector. Changes are proposed in areas that include administrative leave, overtime and compensatory leave, workers’ compensation and hiring practices.

“I know that the discussion of personnel reform is emotional,” said Gov. Brewer. “I know there will be the usual defenders of the status quo. This is a debate that reformers must win. The choice couldn’t be clearer. Either we provide state supervisors the flexibility they need to manage their workforce, or we accept a personnel system bound up with bureaucratic red tape. Either we institute these reforms, or we continue outdated policies that provide most state workers with protections enjoyed by virtually no one in the private sector.”

For more information on the state’s personnel reform plan, go online to www.azgovernor.gov/personnelreform.asp.