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Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014
Editorials

Editorial: Lawmaker’s ploy threatens needed civil service reform

Published:

Shame on Sen. Arthenia Joyner for undermining the collective wishes of the county’s constitutional officers, its entire county commission, and her fellow local lawmakers by pulling a procedural maneuver to kill a bill she doesn’t like.

This isn’t the way a democracy is supposed to work, as the usually reasonable Joyner knows. We doubt she would like it had someone pulled the same trick to kill a bill she had sponsored.

Joyner, a Democrat from Tampa, let a Senate rules committee chair know on Monday that she objected to a bill that would have allowed government agencies in Hillsborough County to opt out of some of the onerous and outdated civil service rules that govern the hiring, transferring, promoting and disciplining of employees. Her lone objection led to the bill being pulled from consideration for passage in the Senate, despite the bill’s overwhelming passage in the House and its near universal support among elected officials in Hillsborough County.

On Tuesday, several members of the local legislative delegation were trying to figure out a way to restore the measure and get it passed. We hope they succeed, and we encourage the Senate to consider changing a rule that permits a single lawmaker to scuttle the desires of an entire delegation with a simple objection in the closing days of a legislative session.

Mandated by state law, the county’s civil service operation is managed by its own staff, governed by a seven-member Civil Service Board and funded by the County Commission. It covers 9,500 jobs at 21 agencies and encompasses 550 job titles and 150 pages of rules. It’s the definition of bureaucratic red tape, and the bill passed by the House offers a sensible fix.

Sponsored by Rep. Dana Young, a Republican from Tampa, the bill targets many of the inefficiencies associated with civil service rules in Hillsborough, the only county in the state with such an elaborate operation.

It would allow agencies such as the sheriff’s office, tax collector, clerk of the court and the county government to opt out of many of the duplicative and burdensome requirements governing personnel actions while retaining the Civil Service Board’s authority over grievance hearings. In other words, it gives those agencies the ability to streamline their personnel operations but continues to protect employees’ rights.

Joyner says the civil service rules are needed to prevent political patronage and to protect employees. She says she made it clear in meetings before the legislative session that she would vote against the measure. But the bill protects employee rights, which are safeguarded by federal and local laws as well. And Joyner should have respected the bill’s overwhelming support from other delegation members and elected officials.

She is certainly entitled to her opinion, but she is wrong to impose her will in this way. Our democracy demands better from our elected officials.

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