The Mississippi House has let die a proposal by Gov. Phil Bryant that would have eliminated civil service protection for rank-and-file state workers.
Bryant and the Republican leadership in the Mississippi Legislature wanted to take state workers out from under the authority of the state Personnel Board, which provides civil service protection for workers. They argue that tight budget times require more flexibility for agencies to manage their payrolls.
Fortunately, a majority of House members saw the proposal for what it is – an attempt to politicize state agencies right down to the receptionist at the front door. Without civil service protection, workers would be subject to the political whims of each incoming administration.
Rep. Herb Frierson, a Poplarville Republican, decided not to bring the bill up for a vote, saying that he was well short of the number of votes needed to pass it.
The state Senate already had passed legislation that would have taken state workers out from under the board for two years.
About 29,000 of the state’s 35,000 employees come under the civil service law. They are the rank-and-file career employees who serve the state, regardless of which party or politician is in power.
All but a handful of states provide civil service protection to keep employees from being hired or fired because of their politics or the lack of it. Civil service helps prevent elected officials from doling out jobs to all their political supporters. It also helps provide a continuity of service.
There is no evidence that the civil service law needs any tinkering. The governor and his political friends appear to be out of touch with Mississippians on this issue.