Amendment S impacts state personnel, including higher education employees

A proposed amendment to modernize the state personnel system would have negligible effect on state classified employees at CSU.

Put on the ballot with bipartisan support from the Colorado legislature, Amendment S seeks to change a system which hasn’t been updated in 40 years.

It “would have very little substantial impact” to hiring practices and operations at CSU and other higher education systems, said Tony DeCrosta, executive director of human resources at CSU.

“I don’t see it being a huge change for how we do business at CSU,” he added.

He said of the approximately 6,200 employees at CSU, about 2,000 fall under the state classified designation, which is the group impacted by the amendment. State classified employees at CSU include some custodial staff, engineers, IT workers and others.

Faculty and administration make up the other 4,200 employees and are exempted from the state civil system.

One of the more significant changes would be the universities ability to look at six finalists for any job.

Under the current system, an agency can only have three finalists for a job, applicants must live in the state of Colorado and temporary/seasonal workers are recruited and trained at taxpayer expense but aren’t allowed to return a second year to work.

If approved, Amendment S would give preference to veterans for hiring, allow temporary workers to return a second year, allow six finalists for a job instead of three and allow job applicants to live 30 miles outside the Colorado border. Political appointments will be expanded from 125 to 325 positions in the state’s senior executive service.

It would also change testing and hiring procedures for filling vacancies in the state personnel system. Currently, a job applicant is assessed through standardized testing. Amendment S would judge applicants on qualifications on top of a numerical exam score.

Those subjective measures might leave open the possibility of favoritism or people getting hired for a job they’re not actually qualified for, said Amendment S opponent Miller Hudson, the former executive director of the Colorado Association of Public Employees.

“We have a lot of jobs in state government where competence is extremely important, water control engineers, bridge engineers,” Hudson said.  “I don’t really care if the person is charming at a cocktail party, I want to make sure they know their stuff when we hire them.”

Hudson also believes it would give the governor too much power in civil service appointments.

Amendment S would allow governors to exempt as many as 25 positions that now are strictly merit-based and allow these positions to be politically appointed. It also gives the governor the ability to remove or appoint two members on the five-member State Personnel Board.

Supporters of the bill include Gov. John Hickenlooper and former governors Bill Ritter and Bill Owens. In an opinion piece published Oct. 12 in the Denver Post the three governors wrote in favor of the Amendment.

“(The current system) has made it difficult to fill vacancies in a timely manner,” they wrote. “That leads to backlogs in state permitting and services that businesses depend on. Amendment S makes it easier to identify and hire great workers.”

Hudson argues that under the current system, hard work and a lifetime dedicated to public service means that a motivated person could rise to high in the ranks of the state’s civil service. Amendment S would be detrimental to state employees who want to be in leadership positions.

“I think it’s going to discourage the most talented employees from remaining with state government, knowing that there’s a glass ceiling,” Hudson said.  “Knowing that they’ll always have to be reporting to some political appointee.”

Hudson also said that Amendment S would have minimal impact on current employees in higher education since most if not all of the high level administration job’s at public universities are exempted.
Senior reporter Austin Briggs can be reached at news@collegian.com.