Open Seat 48th E-Newsletter

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Week of April 1, 2019

Senate State Government Committee Update

The State Government Committee, which I chair, held a public hearing on Senator John Gordner’s Senate Bill 48 to delay the unfunded voting machine decertification and replacement mandate placed upon PA counties by Governor Wolf and the PA Department of State.  If you missed it, you can find testimony here, and watch the hearing below.

3/26/19 – Voting Machine Decertification & Replacement (SB 48)

Guest Chaplain of the Senate:  Reverend James W. Smith, III

Reverend James W. Smith, III, of Palmyra, Lebanon County, and the 48th Senatorial District served as the Senate’s Guest Chaplain on March 27.  Reverend Smith is the Managing Chaplain at Country Meadows Hershey Campus, and the former Chaplain of several PA state correctional institutions.  He has been ordained for over 35 years, is the twin brother of Senator Ryan Aument’s father-in-law, and is also an avid Penn State fan.

L-R:  Sen. Mike Folmer, Cassandra Smith, Reverend James W. Smith, III, Sen. Ryan Aument

Bills Pass Senate, Go to House

All bills passed unanimously.

Senate Bill 49 – extends Good Samaritan civil liability to those who forcibly enter a vehicle in an effort to save a child from heatstroke-related death or serious injury;

Senate Bill 86 – adds urgent care centers to the Safe Haven Law;

Senate Bill 115 – requires CPR and AED instruction for high school students;

Senate Bill 127 – reauthorizes PA’s 911 Law;

Senate Bill 298 – earmarks Stolen Valor fine moneys to the Veterans’ Trust Fund.

Senate Bill 113 becomes Act 1 of 2019

Congratulations to my colleague, Senator John DiSanto, as his Senate Bill 113 was signed into law as Act 1 of 2019.  This legislation strips taxpayer-funded pensions from public employees who commit job-related felonies, requiring pension forfeiture if a public employee or public official is convicted, pleads guilty, or pleads no contest to any felony offense related to his or her employment. 

Column:  Modernizing the Civil Service Commission

The Senate State Government Committee, which I chair, has oversight over a number of state agencies, including the Pennsylvania Civil Service Commission.  I was pleased to help guide the appointment of a new Commissioner through the Senate confirmation process and hope new Commissioner Teresa Osborne will be a change agent to help advance efforts to modernize the Commission.

The Civil Service Commission has been responsible for administering Pennsylvania’s merit hiring system for 37 state agencies employing nearly 57,000 civil service employees.  Its mission is to promote, recruit, and maintain a qualified professional workforce for state and local governments based solely upon job seekers’ merit, abilities, and qualifications to perform designated jobs.

The key to merit employment is competition:  providing each qualified job applicant a fair, open, and transparent opportunity to compete for jobs.  Civil service tests have traditionally been used to measure knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to successfully perform the duties of particular jobs or groups of related jobs.

The Civil Service Commission has also been responsible for ensuring veterans’ preference.  Job seekers who pass civil service exams receive additional benefits in recognition of their military service.

Three years ago, I helped initiate efforts to modernize the Civil Service Commission.  We passed legislation 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, and bring “vacancy based hiring” to the Civil Service Commission by allowing the posting of actual job vacancies rather than general lists of job classifications.

Other changes enacted into law prevented Civil Service Commissioners from being politically active or working for another government entity, established a uniform method to apply for both civil service and non-civil service positions, and allowed appointing agencies to select the type of exams used to generate lists of candidates for positions.

Last Session, I proposed additional modernization efforts to better meet customer’s needs, i.e., those seeking Commonwealth employment – especially veterans – and government agencies looking for new employees.  These changes were unanimously passed by both chambers of the General Assembly and signed into law as Act 71, and became effective just a few days ago – March 28 to be exact.

Under these new provisions, hiring responsibilities will be moved from the Civil Service Commission to the Governor’s Office of Administration, including:  merit-based hiring, civil service applications, certifications, examinations, and promotions.

Although hiring is being moved to the Office of Administration, merit-based hiring will not be affected as agencies will continue to hire people based upon their qualifications.  The new structure will also retain the Civil Service Commission’s jurisdiction over appeals from employment decisions and 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 transfer of merit-based hiring to the Office of Administration.

Most importantly, there will be NO changes to veterans’ preference requirements as this is a separate law (the Military Code).

These innovations were not new and had been offered during previous Sessions of the General Assembly.  I was pleased to finally be able to bring them to a successful finish.

These changes are also consistent with the Office of Administration’s recent successful consolidation of human resources and information technology services of government agencies.

I’m proud to have played a role in these reforms and I enjoyed working with the interested parties who gave valuable input.  I look forward to continuing to work with these entities and the Civil Service Commission in the months and years ahead. 

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