Merit System Modernization Bill Passes House

The Oklahoma House of Representatives unanimously passed House Bill 1146, The Civil Services and Human Capital Modernization Act by Rep. Mike Osborn and Sen. Greg Treat. This bill brings up to date the state’s merit system for state agency employees and will make it more streamlined and efficient. OPEA has spent years studying Oklahoma’s and other similar states’ merit systems and has worked to educate lawmakers about the functions of the system and how it impacts both agencies and state employees. OPEA’s board voted at its last meeting to support this bill. Oklahoma’s merit system was established more than 40 years ago and it has had very little revisions to it over the past years.

The bill contains the framework for Oklahoma’s HR system including independent due process for state employees. It does remove the labels of “classified” and “unclassified” but it does not remove due process. If passed, the process through which state agency grievances will be changed but it will be more efficient for both employees and agencies.

If signed into law, every state agency employee except for five percent of agency positions (excluding governor’s office and legislative staff) will be covered under the new due process system and there will be changes to the processes used to hire new employees. This bill does not change the qualifications for positions but does modify how agencies get a pool of applicants and select the most qualified candidate.

Like many bills that are passed, rules will need to be promulgated to put the law into operation. This is where the real work will begin. We have commitment from state leaders that OPEA will be involved in rule development over the next year.

We also have commitment to ensure that changes to how state employees’ compensation is determined (not just another study) will be implemented to improve state employee compensation. OPEA will also be involved in developing changes to compensation.

The bill now goes to the Senate to be heard there. We will continue to educate lawmakers and monitor the bill to ensure it remains a good step for state employees.

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