Gov. Jan Brewer on Thursday signed a bill to eliminate merit protections for most state employees, which she called a historic reform that will modernize the way Arizona manages its employees.
Brewer’s personnel reform plan, HB2571, will make it easier to fire state employees. Under the bill, most new state employees will be at-will, or uncovered, meaning they can essentially be fired at any time for any legal reason.
The bill, which Brewer began pushing for last year, was the governor’s top legislative priority of the 2012 session.
“The cumbersome rules of our existing personnel system serve only to discourage our best employees and protect the weakest performers,” Brewer said. “With this legislation, we will increase state productivity, eliminate bureaucratic red tape and, ultimately, save our taxpayers money. I applaud the Legislature for rallying around this reform measure, and give a special ‘thank you’ to Representatives Justin Olson and Justin Pierce for making this possible.”
Brewer said the bill maintains “core principles” to prevent partisan political coercion or discrimination against state employees.
Democrats lambasted the bill throughout the session, calling it a return to cronyism and predicting it would lead to political favoritism in the hiring and firing of state employees.
In a press statement, Brewer also thanked Arizona Highway Patrol Association President Jimmy Chavez. Chavez and other state law enforcement organizations had opposed the bill throughout the session, but dropped their opposition late in the session after HB2571 was amended to exclude civilian law enforcement employees from becoming at-will employees.