Governor, lawmakers look to roll back civil service laws

Walker needs to acknowledge role teachers play in health, welfare of state

State lawmakers are rolling out a new plan that would make it easier to hire and fire state workers.

Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke and Sen. Roger Roth, R-Appleton, are preparing a bill that would eliminate exams for prospective state workers, shift hiring authority from state agencies to the Department of Administration and define “just cause” for terminations.

“We want to enhance our civil service system,” Roth said. “It was a great system created in 1905 to fix very real problems, and we want to enhance that and make sure it’s still working for government employees in 2015.”

Gov. Scott Walker endorsed the idea while speaking to the GOP caucus Thursday, calling the changes common-sense reforms that will give state agencies the ability to both retain good workers and remove bad ones. He shared examples he said were reasons to change the system, including saying some workers had not been fired after having sex or viewing porn on the job.

“People hear these stories and they say, ‘Damn straight we need to do something about it,'” Walker said.

Democrats say the measure is the next attack on state workers after Republican lawmakers had previously pointed to the civil service system during the debate over Act 10, saying unions weren’t needed because of civil service protections.

“It’s really troubling and it’s unfortunate,” said Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha. “It doesn’t fit Wisconsin and there’s little wonder the governor’s approval rating is at 39 percent.”

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he hopes to vote on the bill this fall.