Civil service reform bill passes committee

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The push for civil service reform takes a big step today at the state capitol. Lawmakers say a new bill would streamline rules and regulations for state employees.

Legislators say the current state employee regulations were put in place almost 40 years ago to try to guard against workforces being wiped clean by every new administration coming into office. But now lawmakers and labor union advocates agree the system needs an overhaul.

“Easier for everybody all the way around,” said Rep. Mike Osburn of Edmond, describing HB 3094, The Civil Service Merit Protection Modernization Bill.

The bill passed committee this morning 9-1. 

Osburn says, “This is just bringing things up to date.”

Essentially, it makes it easier to hire and fire employees as well as allowing for induvial agencies to have greater freedom to give raises, bonuses, and promotions.

Lawmakers also say the employee grievances and appeals process would be sped up.

“Agencies should be able to do that because they know who they need and what they need and what they need to keep those employees,” said Osburn.

“We are trying to modernize that system while we still keep that component of due process in place,” said Sterling Zearley of Oklahoma Public Employees Association (OPEA).

The OPEA has been helping to draft the bill.

“We need to have one system where we have just state employees, not classified or unclassified,” said Zearley.

Rep. Stan May is a former Tulsa fire union member. He was the lone “no” vote this morning.

The Republican from Broken Arrow says he is not opposed to the overhaul, he just says there is more work to be done on the bill. He likes that current employees can stay with the status quo.

“Current workers have the option of either system- they can change at any time,” said May.

The bill now heads to the House floor.

The title has been stricken as lawmakers continue to fine-tune the language.

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