Modernizing the Civil Service Commission

The Senate State Government Committee, which I chair, recently held a public hearing on legislation introduced by Senator Vulakovich and me to modernize the Pennsylvania Civil Service Commission.

Senator Vulakovich and I introduced this measure to further modernization plans we started two years ago when we initiated some modest changes in the law to:

  • Allow civil service applicants to be notified of job openings or tests by email;
  • Expand the “Rule of Three” to create stronger pools of candidates to fill positions by permitting the Commission to provide lists of more than three candidates, and;
  • Bring “vacancy based hiring” to the Civil Service Commission by allowing them to post actual job vacancies rather than general lists of job classifications.

The General Assembly also approved a number of other changes to the Civil Service law to:

  • Prevent Civil Service Commissioners from being politically active or working for another government entity;
  • Establish a uniform method to apply for both civil service and non-civil service positions, and;
  • Allow appointing authorities to select the type of exams the Commission uses to develop lists of candidates for agency positions.

Our current legislation proposes further modernizations to better meet customer’s needs:  those seeking employment with the Commonwealth – especially veterans – and state government agencies needing to hire people.

Our legislation proposes to better meet these customers’ needs by moving hiring responsibilities from the Civil Service Commission to the Governor’s Office of Administration.  These proposed changes include:  merit-based hiring, civil service applications, certifications, examinations, and, promotions.

Although our plan would move hiring from the Civil Service Commission to the Governor’s Office of Administration, merit-based hiring would NOT be affected as agencies would continue to hire people based upon their qualifications.  Also, agencies and professions currently covered by merit hiring would continue to be subject to merit hiring.

Our initiative would also retain the Civil Service Commission’s jurisdiction over appeals from employment decisions.  This would include the Commission’s authority to:  conduct hearings and render determinations, exempt positions from civil service, and audit Commonwealth compliance with the Civil Service Act – the latter to provide checks and balances relating to the proposed transfer of merit-based hiring to the Office of Administration.

Most importantly, SB 1037 makes NO changes to veterans’ preference, as those protections are provided in the Military Code.

Many of our recommended changes are not new and have been offered in previous Legislation Sessions of the General Assembly.  These changes are also consistent with the Office of Administration’s successful efforts to consolidate human resources and IT functions.

The Senate State Government Committee recently held a public hearing on these proposed changes and I was pleased to hear from the Civil Service Commissioners, Office of Administration Secretary Minnich, Deputy Adjutant General Weller, Director of the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation in the Department of Labor & Industry, the Pennsylvania War Veterans Council, members of the disabled community, and the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania.

This input will be invaluable as we work to bring these changes to Pennsylvania.