Hensley: Kansas employment practices going back to the dark ages

By State Senator Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka

A bill that changes the Kansas Civil Service Act is now on its way to Governor Brownback. House Bill 2391 replaces state employees classified status to unclassified. I voted against it.

Under a classified status, employees are subject to protections in terms of pay, hiring and firing. Unclassified jobs allow employees to be hired and fired at will. HB 2391 makes it so new hires will be unclassified in most state agencies, and anyone who voluntarily transfers or is voluntarily promoted will be changed to unclassified status.

Supporters of the bill contend that change makes state employment practices more aligned with private business. They say it allows state agencies to hire qualified employees. I believe that it takes Kansas back to the dark ages when hiring state workers was a patronage system. Instead of being hired based on merit, employees are hired based on political affiliation or beliefs. As a result, employees can be fired for any reason with no appeal. Unqualified people are more likely to be hired.

This legislation puts millions of dollars from the federal government in jeopardy. The federal government pays certain state employees to do their work when related to federal programs such as Medicaid. These employees must be hired on a merit system. If the state no longer hires using this system, we run the risk of losing federal funds. Kansas has already been warned by the federal government about this. Yet, this legislation passed in both chambers.

Finally, changes in the Kansas Civil Service Act would impact the hiring preferences for veterans. Under current law, qualified veterans get preference on hiring and first promotions, but preferences only apply to classified jobs. So, over time, the veterans preference will be lost.

This legislation is a disgrace. Kansans deserve the best possible employees, regardless of what their politics are. Governor Brownback should veto HB 2391.

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