OPEA Executive Director Sterling Zearley issued the following statement regarding Senate Bill 1046, which would eliminate the classified employment system in its current form. In the statement, Zearley addresses the legislation and seeks to clarify what OPEA is doing for members at the state Capitol this Session.
“It has recently come to my attention that several groups have been attempting to undermine the work OPEA is currently doing at the state Capitol, either by taking credit for issues we have been working on or by spreading false statements about the positions we are taking on certain issues important to our members, including legislation that affects the classified employment system.
“The current structure of the classified employment system has recently come under scrutiny, and some legislators did file legislation that sought to completely eliminate the system we have in place. Senator Dan Newberry (R-Tulsa) was one of the legislators who filed such a bill. Senator Newberry agreed to carry Senate Bill 1046 on behalf of the Oklahoma Labor Department and Labor Commissioner Mark Costello.
“When Senator Newberry filed Senate Bill 1046, I immediately contacted him to set up a meeting to discuss the negative consequences the state would face if the classified employment system were abolished. I initially met with Senator Newberry in mid-January to explain OPEA’s opposition to entirely eliminating the current system.
“As I explained to Senator Newberry, the classified system protects state agencies from political patronage. Before the current classified system existed, anyone seeking a job with the state had to know a legislator, and eliminating this system would undoubtedly allow the return of such practices. The system is also necessary for many agencies to receive federal funding, and it protects both employees and employers. Senator Newberry was very receptive, and he said he would continue working with us throughout the legislative session.
“Since our first meeting in January, OPEA has stayed in constant contact with Senator Newberry about Senate Bill 1046. The Senate General Government Committee will hear Senate Bill 1046 on Monday, February 20th. OPEA will continue to provide information to members as it becomes available.
“I am very grateful that Senator Newberry has been so receptive to OPEA’s concerns with this legislation, and I appreciate him for his efforts to work with us on the classified employment system.”