TALLAHASSEE — A procedural war has broken out over a bill allowing Hillsborough County government agencies to opt out of Civil Service rules regarding recruiting, hiring and transferring county employees.
Earlier this week, Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, used a chamber rule granting a courtesy to any senator who objects to a “local bill” to hold up the proposal (HB 683).
Then, Tom Lee, R-Brandon, used another rule to pull the bill back onto the floor Thursday.
Not to be outplayed, Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale moved to “indefinitely postpone” the measure.
Smith quoted from Lee’s comments at a budget meeting, where he mused about what happens “if this process has no more respect for rank and file members” than its leaders.
A simmering Lee, who said he was quoted out of context, shot back, “If the minority party wants to play show and tell, let’s play show and tell.”
Among other things, Lee said the measure has near unanimous support from all Hillsborough lawmakers in the House and Senate.
Smith’s motion eventually failed on a voice vote and the bill was put into position to be voted on Friday – the last day of the legislative session.
The Hillsborough County 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.
But critics, including local elected officers, 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.
The bill creates 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.
Joyner has told the Tribune that the Civil Service Board is needed to ensure government workers continue to be hired by merit, not by which political party or leader is in power.