Amendment S

By: Andie Adams Email
By: Andie Adams Email

Amendment S proposes amending the Colorado Constitution to:

  • increase the number and types of state employees who may be exempt from the state civil service system, also known as the state personnel system;

  • change testing and hiring procedures for filling vacancies in the state personnel system;

  • expand hiring preferences for veterans; and

  • adjust the terms of service and duties for members of the State Personnel Board, and the standard to remove certain members.

SUMMARY

Amendment S makes changes to the state personnel system, impacting approximately 32,500 individuals in full- and part-time permanent positions in state government. The measure applies only to classified employees in the state personnel system and does not affect non-classified employees (about 41,000 individuals), most of whom work in the legislative and judicial branches and at institutions of higher education. All employees are covered under applicable state and federal employment laws, such as those protecting against discrimination.

State personnel system. In 1918, Colorado voters amended the state constitution to create the state civil service system. In 1970, the system was updated and renamed the state personnel system. It currently requires that:
• employees be hired and promoted according to merit and fitness;
• job candidates be scored and ranked using a competitive exam;

ANALYSIS

• hiring decisions be made from among job candidates with the three highest scores on competitive exams;
• eligible veterans be able to receive a hiring preference for only one position;
• positions be filled by Colorado residents unless certain conditions are met; and
• employees provide 12 months of satisfactory service before becoming certified as classified.

Other portions of the system are governed by state law or rule, including processes to evaluate candidates and job performance,
respond to grievances, and terminate employment. The system is administered by the state personnel director (head of the Department of Personnel and Administration), with oversight from the independent State Personnel Board.

Exemption from the state personnel system. Exempted positions are specifically listed in the state constitution and include most employees of the state courts, the legislature, and the state's institutions of higher education, as well as department heads and members of certain boards and commissions. Political appointees serving the administration of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor are also exempt. Similar to the private sector, exempted employees and their state agency employers may each end the employment relationship at any time. In these positions, there are no universal standards for evaluating candidates, assessing job performance, or responding to grievances.

Amendment S allows the state personnel director to exempt certain additional management and support positions, up to 1 percent of the total number of employees in the state personnel system. Based on the current figure of about 32,500 classified employees, the measure allows an estimated 325 new positions to be exempted. Currently, most departments have only one exempt position, the department head. If voters approve Amendment S, additional exemptions may include deputy department heads, chief financial officers, public information officers, legislative liaisons, human resource directors, executive assistants to department heads, and members of the senior executive service (SES). The SES is a performance pay plan authorized by state statute to compensate up to 125 positions with a high level of management responsibility. SES positions are currently allocated according to department size, and new exemptions may be similarly distributed.

Evaluating and hiring job candidates. Currently, candidates must be ranked based on the results of a competitive exam using criteria set by each department and following rules issued by the State Personnel Board. In practice, each candidate is awarded up to 100 points based on the results of his or her exam, with additional points awarded if he or she qualifies for a veterans' preference. The measure allows for the use of other objective methods to evaluate, compare, and rank job candidates. These other methods may include written exams, oral boards, search committees, or the use of non-numerical criteria, as long as they meet professionally accepted standards. Current law requires hiring managers to choose among the three
candidates with the highest scores. Amendment S allows the top six candidates to be considered, regardless of the evaluation and ranking method used. Under the measure, the state personnel director, rather than the State Personnel Board, will be required to issue rules for the evaluation and ranking of candidates through the public rule-making process.

Hiring preferences for veterans. Under the current evaluation process, an eligible veteran or his or her surviving spouse receives five additional points on his or her competitive exam score. A disabled veteran receives ten additional points. Once an individual has been hired by the state using a veterans' preference, he or she may not apply the preference again to another position. Amendment S allows a veteran to continue to use preference points when applying for most
other positions in the system. Hiring temporary employees. Colorado's constitution allows for temporary employment of persons for up to 6 months to address a short-term or urgent hiring need. State rules clarify that a temporary appointment may not exceed 6 months within a 12-month period. The measure extends the time limit for temporary employment to 9 months,
and state rules may be adjusted accordingly.

Residency. Colorado's constitution requires that positions within the personnel system be filled by residents of Colorado unless the State Personnel Board finds the position requires special education or special qualifications and the position cannot be readily filled by a Colorado resident. Amendment S gives the state personnel director the authority to waive residency requirements as well. It also eliminates the residency requirement for positions located within 30 miles of the state border.

State personnel system oversight. The five-member State Personnel Board, which includes three members appointed by the Governor and two members elected by classified employees, sets policy for the system. None of the members may be a state employee. Currently, board members may serve an unlimited number of five-year terms and may only be removed for cause. The board is responsible for setting rules for conducting competitive exams used to evaluate candidates for positions in the system, approving exemptions from residency requirements, and hearing appeals to certain decisions made by the state personnel director.

If approved, Amendment S:
• reduces board terms from five years to three years for members appointed or elected after January 1, 2013;
• limits board members from serving more than two terms;
• allows two appointees to serve or be removed at the Governor's pleasure;
• removes the authority of the board to set rules for the process and criteria used to evaluate and hire candidates for positions
in the system; and
• allows the state personnel director to set the rules for evaluating and hiring candidates and to approve residency exemptions.


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