About three-fourths of the state's 36,000 executive branch employees are covered, meaning they have the protections of the state's merit system rules. That gives them certain rights to appeals and hearings if there is a move to discipline or fire them. Gov. Jan Brewer wants to scrap those merit protections, saying it is currently too cumbersome to get rid of bad employees. But Sen. Linda Lopez cited figures from the personnel board which found that out of 331 disciplinary actions that were appealed over a six-year period, just 26 were overturned or modified.
"The discharge appeals were not found to be relevant and, for the most part, were not overturned," said Lopez. "And so the assertion that it's difficult to terminate employees in the state of Arizona is just flat wrong."
But Sen. Ron Gould said there was no reason for state worker to be treated any different than those in private industry.
"My father worked at the same outfit for 42 years," Gould recounted. "Each and every day, he had to prove his worth to his boss or he was subject to being fired. That's how it works in the real world. That's what the public expects. They don't expect government employees to have special protection."
The change would be automatic for new workers. And existing employees who give up merit protections would get a one-time salary boost.