JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — State workers will no longer be afforded some employment protections as the General Assembly voted to make workers “at will” employees. The state’s merit system was also repealed in the same legislation.

Sen. Mike Kehoe’s SB 1007 was approved by the in a 98-31 vote in the House on Thursday evening — with the end of regular session less than 24 hours away. Already having Senate approval, the bill is shy of the governor’s signature to becoming law.  

The bill gives the administration more leeway in hiring, firing, and rewarding. In January, Gov. Eric Greitens said he is supportive of giving raises to state workers — who are among the lowest paid in the nation — and this legislation would give his administration the ability to do so.

Under the budget the General Assembly passed, employees making under $70,000 per year would get a $700 increase per year, and prison guards would get an additional $350.

Under the merit system that eight of the state agencies uses, employment decisions are made base on a workers performance on standardized tests.

Democrats took issue with the new language that stated an employee could be fired for “no reason or any reason” other than what is protected by the Missouri Human Rights Act.

Rep. Peter Merideth said that this would open up state employees to being fired and replaced when political power shifts after an election for no reason.

“This is a bad bill for the State of Missouri,” according to Rep. Deb Lavender.

But Republicans contended that this is good for the roughly 57,000 state workers.

“What we’re trying to do is make this civil service more accountable to the people,” said Rep. Curtis Trent.

He also contented the changes would make the government work more like a private business. Lavender called the notion “appalling.”

Alisha Shurr is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine. She joined the Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University. Contact Alisha at alisha@themissouritimes.com.