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Brownback reveals sweeping human resource reform plan

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Topeka Capital-Journal
Posted: February 11, 2015 - 12:51pm
By Tim Carpenter
Reform targets include hiring, layoff, compensation practices

The administration of Gov. Sam Brownback revealed a laundry list of statutory and regulatory proposals Wednesday to reform hiring practices, layoff and termination policies and possible elimination of longevity bonuses for thousands of government workers.

Officials in the Kansas Department of Administration framed the initiatives as a move to modernize the state's human resources system and instill processes that better reward quality workers.

"Kansas deserves human resource policies that are commensurate of the quality of services that state employees provided on a daily basis," said Jim Clark, secretary of the administration department.

Disclosure of the changes -- some requiring approval of the Kansas Legislature -- followed by one day Brownback's decision to rescind an executive order issued by a Democratic governor in 2007 that offered state employees protection from discrimination tied to sexual orientation and gender identity.

Clark said legislation would be introduced in the Capitol to give state agencies broader authority to hire employees into unclassified positions rather than keep those jobs in the classified, or civil service, system. These new hires would have less job security because Kansas unclassified staff can be fired at will.

A bill will be put forward to require the Legislature to fund the annual longevity bonuses for classified employees or to remove that piece from Kansas law, he said. In recent years, the Legislature has allowed the bonuses to be paid but only if state agencies found the money through internal reallocation.

The Cabinet secretary said another measure to be introduced would limit use of shared leave among state employees to those with a "life threatening" illnesses rather than "extreme" or "severe" conditions.

Clark said regulatory changes that could be handled administratively would include: limiting payouts of accrued leave to employees terminated for cause, reform of the layoff process to emphasize performance rather than seniority, reduce options for employee appeal of job evaluations and convergence of paid time off for vacation and sick leave for new employees.

In addition, the secretary said the administration would be sending notices to unions representing state workers of an intention to seek changes to labor agreements.

Kraig Knowlton, director of the personnel services in the administration department, said he was unsure how many thousands of state employees would be impacted by the reform plan. The package of reforms may have limited impact on state university staff because those higher education institutions have different personnel rules.

Tim Carpenter can be reached at (785) 295-1158 or
Follow Tim on Twitter @TimVCarpenter. Read Tim's blog.

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