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Legislative Update 3/28/12

Posted Monday, April 2, 2012, at 10:57 AM

(Photo)
By Rep. Craig Fitzhugh.

As legislative session continues, I am surprised at the pace with which legislation is passing out of committees. We are literally seeing hundreds of bills each week, many of which we haven't even had time to properly discuss. I have encouraged those in charge to slow things down a little so members can be fully prepared to vote on important legislation. We need to finish our work quickly, but we also need to do it in an orderly and responsible way. That is what the people expect us to do.

No piece of legislation is more important to carefully examine than the TEAM Act. This bill, proposed by the Administration, would do away with a number of civil service protections for state employees. For many years, state employees were subject to the political whims of whoever was in power. When a Democrat was elected to office, Republican state employees got fired and the same happened to Democrats when a Republican took over. Rep. Kent Williams, a Republican from Carter County, experienced this kind of patronage first hand. He was hired under a Republican, but when Ray Blanton got elected Governor, Rep. Williams found himself with two kids and no job. That's why the state implemented civil service in the first place.

Now I am not suggesting that our current Governor would engage in this kind of patronage if he is successful in getting rid of civil service protections, but we cannot be so certain about future administrations. Our state employees are not political and they shouldn't be hired and fired based on their political party. I am not opposed to some reform, but we need a balanced approach here. I have offered a number of amendments to the TEAM Act. These amendments would preserve important civil service protections, while modernizing our human resources procedures. I am in business in the private sector, so I understand the need to overcome bureaucratic hurdles in the hiring process. But when it comes to state employees, I think there is a better way to do that than returning to the days of patronage.

In other news, my 2012 Jobs Package ( http://www.craigfitzhugh.com/blog/jobs/ ) is moving through the General Assembly. While these bills still face an uphill battle, I am hopeful that we can continue to attract bipartisan support. In particular I am pleased that the Governor has taken an interest in HB 2314, my "Back to Work Act." This bill would make a one-time $20 million investment in our technology centers and community colleges. With this money, these two groups could replace equipment, expand programming and produce more graduates. We have done this once before in 2007 with phenomenal results. At a time when everyone agrees we need a more educated work force to attract jobs, I believe this is a worthwhile and sound fiscal investment. I hope the Governor will come around to this plan and include funding in his budget amendment this year.

As always, if you are ever in need of assistance or would like to hear more about another issue, please contact my legislative office and we'll get your questions answered as soon as possible. Have a great week!



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