[StBernard] Amendments would affect Legislature, status of some state workers
westley at da-parish.com
Sat Sep 25 11:00:38 EDT 2010
Amendments would affect Legislature, status of some state workers
By Mike Hasten . mhasten at gannett.com .
September 24, 2010
BATON ROUGE - Besides deciding among
candidates for lieutenant governor and some local
issues and offices, voters in the Oct. 2 election will
decide the fate of two constitutional amendments.
The two proposals - advancing the start of
legislative sessions two weeks and making all
employees of the state emergency operations center
unclassified Civil Service Employees - would have
little effect on most people, but proponents argue
that they are important.
The author of Amendment 1 - state Sen. Neil Riser,
R-Columbia - said that moving up the start of
legislative sessions will provide more time for state
agencies to implement new budgets.
"It's a more efficient way for the state to do
business," Riser said. "If there's any kind of budget
discrepancies, this gives more time to make
Legislative sessions start and end at different times,
depending on whether it's an odd or even-
Riser's proposal calls for legislative sessions in
even-numbered years, when sessions run 60 days
in an 85-day period, to start on the second Monday,
instead of the last one, in March. Sessions in odd-
numbered years, which run 45 days in a 60-day
period, would begin on the second Monday in April,
instead of the last Monday of the month.
It is normal for sessions to run well into June, which
leaves little time for budget adjustments.
This year's session, for example, began March 29
and ended June 21. The end of the fiscal year is
June 30, so state departments had to hurry to
implement a new budget that officially went into
effect July 1.
In an analysis of the amendments, the Public Affairs
Research Council points out that only Louisiana and
Florida begin sessions as late as March. Most states
begin legislative sessions in January.
Riser's original 2009 legislation sought to begin
sessions in January but arguments over conflicting
with Mardi Gras celebrations forced him to change
He wanted the first of March but complaints about
interfering too much with some lawmakers' tax
preparation businesses led to moving the sessions
up only two weeks.
Riser said everyone in the Legislature has to give up
something they want or like. For example, he says
with a chuckle, "frog season starts in April."
The proposed amendment also would make the
effective date of new laws adopted by the Legislature
Aug. 1 instead of Aug. 15, unless the legislation
caries a specific implementation date. Many bills
contain the language: "Effective upon signature of
Amendment 1 has the support of the Louisiana
Municipal Association and the Council for a Better
Amendment 2, sponsored by state Sen. Mike
Walsworth, R-West Monroe, would allow more than
400 employees of the Governor's Office of
Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness to
be exempt from state Civil Service rules and
protection and end a year-old lawsuit filed by the
state Civil Service Commission challenging the
authority of the Legislature to exempt the office from
Advertisement Walsworth said the exemption is needed because
homeland security employees "need flexibility" to be
able to do other jobs during emergencies. He said
Civil Service rules are too restrictive to allow
movement of duties.
GOHSEP began as the Office of Emergency
Preparedness and then was turned over to the
National Guard, which is not Civil Service. When it
became a civilian operation under the governor's
office, some employees were under classified Civil
Service, but some were not, Walsworth said, so
petitions for exemption and eventually legislation
declared them unclassified.
Civil Service filed a lawsuit claiming the employees
should be classified and that the Legislature has no
authority to intervene.
Walsworth said the constitutional amendment would
put an end to the lawsuit.
Opponents to Amendment 2 argue that an entire
department should not be subject to "patronage,"
since unclassified employees can be dismissed by
The PAR analysis says unclassified employees have
"no centrally established minimum qualifications,"
serve at the pleasure of the agency that hires them
and can engage in political activity.
CABL President Barry Erwin said he could see both
sides of the arguments, but "we support it with the
view that GOHSEP truly is unique among state
agencies, it operates more from a military
command-type model, and flexibility in making
personnel decisions should not be an issue in
More information about the StBernard