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Lawmaker’s next focus: Brewer’s personnel overhaul

Gov. Jan Brewer. (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

After wrapping up work on the budget, senators immediately turned their attention to a sweeping proposal by Gov. Jan Brewer to overhaul the rules that govern state employees.

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Republicans and Democrats separately tackled the proposal in meetings this afternoon, a crucial step to advancing the measure to the floor for a debate.

The bill, which took the backseat while lawmakers and the governor hammered out a budget deal, is expected to be amended before lawmakers vote on it.

Senate Majority Leader Andy Biggs said they probably will debate the proposal tomorrow.

“We felt all along the budget was really a big priority for us so while the rest of the caucus was doing their bills, we were working on the budget,” Biggs said. “And now, we think that we have resolved most of the issues in the personnel reform (legislation). So now is the time to do the personnel reform.”

The legislation seeks to uncover workers from the state’s merit system, giving supervisors more flexibility in firing them.

The conversion to an “at-will” status will apply to new hires, supervisors, attorneys and IT workers, those who are above a certain pay grade and any employee who voluntarily accepts a new assignment or chooses to be “uncovered.”

Other workers may choose to remain covered.

Under the latest plan, the conversion to an “at-will” status won’t extend to peace officers, lower-level correctional officers, and civilian employees at the Department of Public Safety.

The job of administering state workers would fall to a consolidated State Personnel System. The measure, HB2571, seeks to consolidate eight systems that currently govern state workers.

Almost every agency head will also serve at the governor’s pleasure, eliminating their terms of office.

The director of the Department of Public Safety, however, will serve concurrently with the governor and may only be dismissed “with cause.”

Democrats are expected to vigorously oppose the bill, which they fear would increase political cronyism in state government.

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