Allowing twenty-five state agencies to bypass the state Personnel Board could save taxpayers millions of dollars. But the Mississippi Alliance for State Employees says it could cost several people their jobs in the process. Now it's up to the legislature to decide.
Gov. Haley Barbour, as well as 25 state agencies and departments, favor legislation to bypass the state personnel board. Effectively, it allows state department heads to run their own offices for one year without following the state's guidelines set forth under existing Mississippi code.
"Senate Bill 2680 strips all state employees of the property right that they have in their state positions that they are currently holding," said Brenda Scott, president of MASE.
The Mississippi Alliance for State Employees asks the bill be defeated in the House.
"We as the Mississippi State Legislature need to remember that the services these people generate to Mississippi are valued and we need to treat these people as valued employees," said state Rep. Mark Duvall, a Democrat from Mantachie.
But supporters of the legislation say it's about running state government more effectively. The governor says the reason he wants to bypass the state personnel board is not to fire a bunch of state employees, but rather give department heads the power to re-organize their department so they run the most efficiently for the state. State Rep. Mark Baker says the bill's worth looking at.
"What we're trying to do is clean up situations where people aren't showing up for work," said Baker, a Republican from Brandon.
The Department of Corrections was allowed to bypass the state personnel board and saved the state $15 million. Baker says this will give department directors more flexibility. The alliance says it will hurt the state in the long run.
"It allows political patronage and favoritism to thrive while only hindering the state's ability to honestly attract and recruit young new workers," said Scott.
The House of Representatives has also passed legislation regarding state employees. House Bill 609 would create a hiring freeze in state agencies for this fiscal year and FY 2009.