MADISON — Supporters of a Republican-backed bill that would make it easier to hire or fire Wisconsin state employees are defending it against claims it will lead to political patronage and cronyism.
Opponents including Democrats and state employee union leaders said at a Senate hearing Tuesday, October 6th that it will erode protections workers have under the 110-year-old civil service system.
"What`s the protection to make sure that`s not happening? I`m not seeing it in this bill, other than pinkie swears," Senator Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) said.
"That's a bunch of garbage," Senator Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) said.
"Where is the political patronage happening right now in our civil service system? We don`t change any of those core functions, so the alarms you`re trying to raise are unfounded," Senator Roger Roth (R-Appleton) said.
The bill would speed up the hiring process, eliminate civil service exams that are meant to be unbiased, and replace them with a resume system. The bill says new employees will work longer on probation, and it would shorten the time the workers have to appeal their discipline.
Governor Scott Walker's administration hasn't asked workers what they think of the bill.
"We haven`t had time to do that. The bill was just introduced," Cate Zeuske said.
Union reps with AFSCME say that needs to be done.
"Why not spend that time? This is not something that has to be solved next week," Rick Badger with AFSCME Council 32 said.
But supporters, like Governor Walker say the civil service system is something that needs to be fixed urgently -- citing a 10-year-old example of a staffer who couldn't be fired after watching pornography at work.
In another case, it took eight months to fill a job.
One private sector human resources representative says he supports the bill.
"I come before you to briefly testify in favor of this bill because a lot of the similarities I see in the private industry, I also see now moving into state service," the man said.
Jim Thiel, representing the Association of Career Employees, says the bill is not needed and won't solve the problems it's intended to address.
But members of Governor Scott Walker's administration say it will modernize the hiring system and make it easier to quickly fill vacancies. Hiring decisions would go through a state agency led by a Walker appointee.
Democrats question how that could remain unbiased.
Despite the opposition, the bill is moving quickly through the Legislature and could be debated in the Senate and Assembly later this month.