TALLAHASSEE — A bill that could spell the demise of the Hillsborough County Civil Service Board cleared another committee in the Florida House on a largely party-line vote Friday, despite its sponsor saying the proposal had bipartisan support back home.
The State Affairs committee approved the bill (HB 683) on a 10-5 vote, with five of the panel’s six Democrats opposed. With no more scheduled committees, the measure is clear to head to the House floor.
But it’s unclear if the effort will go anywhere else this legislative session. The bill has no Senate companion, which can signal a lack of interest in tackling a particular issue.
Tampa Republican Dana Young’s measure would create an “opt-in, opt-out” for the 21 county agencies covered by the board. That would allow them to conduct human-resource services now done for them by the board, such as recruitment and testing.
The board would retain the power to review firings, demotions and other negative job actions. The school system, judiciary and municipalities would continue to be exempt.
Young, also the deputy Republican leader, said all the bodies under the board, including the county commission, sheriff’s office and aviation authority, asked her to file the bill. Representatives from those agencies who attended Friday’s meeting said they supported the move.
Col. Greg Brown of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, for example, told the committee his agency thinks it can do a better job for less money.
Young quoted from the most recent audit of the board, which said it was a “deeply bureaucratic organization, focused on process more than positive outcomes, and is not meeting the human-resource needs of the agencies required to use its services.”
“The customers of this agency ... do not want them,” she said. “They do not think they are doing a good job. That is why they begged me to file this bill.”
The board’s budget was nearly $2.4 million in 2012-13, funded through a payroll deduction from county employees.
The Civil Service Board acts as a shared-services organization, processing about 115,000 job applications and filling 1,300 jobs a year. The Legislature created the board in the 1950s, part of a nationwide movement to protect government workers after new politicians take office.
Critics, including the tax collector and clerk of court, have said the agency’s complex job classifications prevent supervisors from giving workers new duties or raising their pay above a certain grade without permission from the board.
Dane Petersen, the civil service board’s director, defended his organization.
“The civil service system is not broken,” he said. “In fact, it’s a model of efficient and effective government ... it enhances fairness and transparency for county employees and citizens.”
He also said he’s flexible to his client agencies’ needs and has received many accolades from them.
Petersen predicted that as more of the agencies opt out of using his services, he will lose the “economy of scale” that allows his organization to operate at its current cost, especially if he loses the bigger agencies.
“It won’t make sense for us to exist if we’re only providing service to five agencies with 10 or 20 employees,” he said.
How to sound off
HB 683 would create an “opt-in, opt-out” for the 21 county agencies covered by the Hillsborough County Civil Service board, allowing them to conduct human-resource services now done for them by the board. That includes recruitment and testing.
Sponsor is Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, (850) 717-5060 or Dana.Young@myfloridahouse.gov
To find and contact your own senator or representative, visit www.leg.state.fl.us. You’ll also find helpful tips at the Information Center there.