Senate signs off on changes to state’s Merit system


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – As the Missouri legislature prepares to conference on the differences between the Senate and House version of the state’s $27.8 billion budget, the Senate has moved forward with legislation seeking to overhaul the state’s hiring process.

The proposal passed out of the upper chamber on Tuesday seeks to allow for the rewarding of well-performing state workers over those considered to be underperforming.

The legislation is part of the initial deal laid out in Gov. Eric Greitens’ budget earlier this year, a deal in which state workers, the lowest paid in the nation, would receive a raise if the legislature passed a bill making it easier for the administration to hire, fire, or reward those workers.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Mike Kehoe, the state senator representing Jefferson City, the home of the majority of state workers, advanced with a 21-12 vote.

Kehoe convinced his colleagues to pass SB 1007, stating that it could help improve the work of the state.

“I think this helps level the playing field so the directors and the folks who are within those departments have the ability to promote and acknowledge the folks who are working hard and doing their jobs,” said Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kehoe, a Jefferson City Republican.

Democratic senators did not see things the same way, with Sen. Scott Sifton citing his concerns that it could put the state at risk of more lawsuits due to fired employees.  Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal said that the changes, along with the already low pay, could demoralize the culture of state agencies even further.

The state pay raise, however, still remains in limbo, as the budget is still to be finalized. Under the proposal, employees making under $70,000 per year would get a $700 increase per year, but the Senate version delays the effective date until 2019.

Read the bill language here.