TOPEKA — A new bill backed by some conservative Republicans would make it easier for the state to fire some employees and make it easier to give raises to top performers.
House Bill 2384 would shift a variety of state employees to the unclassified system, allowing the state to discipline or fire them without allowing them to appeal the action through the state civil service board.
The bill would apply to many supervisors in the Department of Children and Families, Department of Revenue, state attorneys and tech workers.
“It’s a conversation we need to have,” said Rep. Marc Rhoades, who is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, which is considering the bill.
No one spoke in favor of the bill, but Rhoades said he and other people he didn’t name are in favor of it as a way to reward top performers and facilitate discipline for poor performance.
Rep. Marvin Kleeb, R-Overland Park, said he has heard the state struggles to jettison poor workers and sometimes even hires new workers to help support ones that can’t perform all their duties.
Rebecca Proctor, an attorney representing the American Federation of Teachers in Kansas, said the merit system used in Kansas was created to prevent politically based hiring and firing on the federal level. In 1940, Kansas voters approved creating a merit-based civil service system.
She said it protects employees from coercion via political influence, and the proposed new law would erase that.
“If you’re on the wrong side politically, you can lose your job,” she said.
Proctor said programs such as food stamps and federal grants for adoption and emergency services require the state to have a merit system for employees working on those programs.
She said the state hasn’t taken that into consideration.
“You have no idea what the impact to the budget will be with the loss of that money,” she said.
Rhoades, R-Newton, said that the bill is crafted to avoid the loss of federal money.
Rep. Jerry Henry, D-Atchison, said the bill could allow some employees to get big raises without justification.
“I have a concern about that," he said.
The committee hasn’t voted on the bill yet, but it could in coming days.