Scott Walker pushing bill making it easier to fire bad bureaucrats



The New York Times ran an editorial taking Scott Walker to task for trying to dismantle Wisconsin's Civil Service system. The civil service was set up to prevent cronyism and politically motivated hiring and firing in Wisconsin's professional public employee system. The way the Times portrays it, only a monster would try to dismantle such a progressive system. That's because like most NYT articles, you get the liberal argument against it, but never the conservative argument for it. More on that in a moment.

First, here's what's in the bill. The bill would change the anonymous system of hiring and encourage people to submit resumes, like in the public sector. But the key change is on the firing end:

The Civil Service bill Mr. Walker supports also undermines protections against unfair termination. Under its rules, supervisors could fire workers for “personal conduct” they find “inadequate, unsuitable or inferior.” Like many of the bill’s opponents, Jim Thiel, a retired chief attorney for the state’s Department of Transportation, fears such vague language invites partisan retaliation and favoritism. “These words — ‘inadequate,’ ‘inferior’ — are empty vessels into which you can pour many things,” Mr. Thiel told me. “ ‘Personal conduct’ sounds like something outside the work environment.”

Wow. Who could support such an "evil" piece of legislation?

Before we can answer that, let's take a step back and look at state bureaucracies. When you think of state employees, is the number one problem you think of unfair firings? Is this the main problem? Or is the main problem underperforming employees who can't be fired? Today, in the 21st century, it's the latter that is the problem.

Because the Times would never write about that, I did a little digging on other news sources and here's what I found:

The bill's authors, Sen. Roger Roth (R-Appleton) and Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna), argued it's become too rigid and slow to allow the state to operate efficiently and hire the best new workers before other employers snatch them up.

"We can't afford to be working with the same rules as we have for 100 years," Steineke said. "If you don't make (hiring) decisions in a few weeks, people are generally gone, especially as the job market picks up as the economy improves."

...Walker and two top Republican lawmakers are seeking to: eliminate the state's civil service exams, replacing them with a résumé-based system for merit hiring; stop allowing longtime employees to avoid termination by "bumping" other workers with less seniority out of their jobs; and shorten by more than half the process for employees to appeal their dismissal or discipline.

Walker said he knew of cases of state employees spending large parts of their days watching pornography but said they couldn't be fired under state rules. He also said two state employees couldn't be fired even though they had had sex in state facilities, and a parole agent couldn't be terminated after being caught doing drugs with a parolee.

"Most people in this state look at that and say, 'That just doesn't make any sense. That's nonsense. We've got to fix that,'" Walker said in his meeting with Assembly Republicans.

In other words, Walker wants to move the state closer to an at-will employment system. This makes sense for several reasons:

1) The original intent of the civil service was to prevent politicization of the bureaucracy. But we know that government employee unions are already the most politicized organizations in the country.

2) No governor would fire thousands of employees for political reasons, because it would be exposed in the media.

3) There are a lot of rotten apples in the public sector and it is really hard to fire them. People in the private sector have to please their bosses to keep their jobs; why shouldn't people in government have to do the same as well?

While Scott Walker is terrible on the issue of illegal immigration and keeping fewer than three positions on the same issue in one week, he is great on the issue of unions. He should stay in Wisconsin and keep up the good work.

(Abridged version originally published in AT)



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