By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – The effort of the Republican leadership of the Legislature to remove civil service protection for state employees hit a surprising snag Wednesday when House members refused to send the proposal to the Senate.
Last week by a 62-57 margin, the House voted to take state employees out from under Personnel Board guidelines that ensures, for instance, they cannot be fired for political reasons. But the bill was held on a motion to reconsider that must be disposed of before the legislation can be transferred to the Senate for consideration.
On Wednesday, the members by a 61-59 margin refused to dispose of the motion. The leadership has until Monday to table the motion, or the bill dies.
A few members of the Republican majority joined the Democratic minority to keep the bill in the House.
The legislation would remove the Personnel Board protection, starting July 1 through June 30, 2020, for most state agencies. Sworn state law enforcement officers, school attendance officers and the more than 7,000 employees of the Department of Mental Health were exempted from being removed from civil service protection.
About 30,000 state employees have Personnel Board protection. Each agency has employees who work at the will and pleasure of the political leadership, but most workers have the Personnel Board protection.
But Personnel Board officials say that protection does not stop agencies from making personnel decisions.
House Appropriations Chair John Read, R-Gautier, argued that removing the civil service protection that is provided through the state Personnel Board might, in reality, prevent agency directors from having to dismiss employees.
“We have made cuts, severe cuts to all agencies,” Read said on the House floor. “There will be more cuts coming.
“We have tried to give them the flexibility to move staff around to keep from laying off people.”
Rep. Steve Holland of Plantersville, said, “This is nothing but imperialism in its finest form,” saying the legislation would give the governor the ultimate authority to fire thousands of state employees. Holland said no one in state government should have that authority.