Rep. Mike Osburn’s bill would, if approved, update state merit system

OKLAHOMA CITY – Legislation modernizing Oklahoma’s merit protection system for state employees overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives on Tuesday, March 10.

House Bill 3094 was authored by Rep. Mike Osburn, R-Edmond, and creates the Merit Protection Modernization Act. The act dictates that beginning Jan. 1, 2021, all new hires would be placed into a newly-modernized civil service system called Human Capital Management Administration (HCMA).

H.B. 3094 allows existing classified employees the choice to transfer to HCMA or remain in the existing classified service until they leave their job.
The bill also preserves due process in the HCMA for employee protests of disciplinary actions, including protections for whistleblowers and appeals of alleged politically motivated actions. These actions would be heard before an independent administrative law judge.

“The state’s human resources system hasn’t undergone any major changes since 1982, but many of its policies are effective in today’s workforce,” Osburn said. 
“House Bill 3094 removes these antiquated practices while keeping due process, accountability and transparency top priorities.”

H.B. 3094 would allow state agencies to set hiring, promotion, pay and other human resources policies for unclassified employees in a manner that meets the needs and resources of each agency with the oversight of HCMA.

The Merit Protection Modernization Act would:

    1. Create the Human Capital Management Administration (HCMA) under the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES);
    2. Require the HCMA to establish an alternative dispute resolution program to act on complaints arising from disciplinary actions by state employees, as well as:
        1. Authorize the HCMA to establish rules and contract with administrative law judges to consider the complaints, and
        2. Define “disciplinary actions” as “termination, suspension, demotion, forced or politically motivated transfers or other actions resulting in loss of pay or benefits;”
    3. Establish and shorten the complaint process to five days for filing the complaint and 20 days for resolution to reduce long, drawn-out appeals;
    4. Place all new hires under HCMA beginning Jan. 1, 2021; and
    5. Give classified employees the option of remaining classified and with the merit system.
Osburn said he has spent two and a half years collaborating on the legislation with the Governor’s Office, the Oklahoma Public Employees Association, agency heads, the Office of Management and Enterprise Services, the Senate and other stakeholders. He said discussions are continuing between parties as HB 3094 moves through the legislative process.

State agencies use the merit system as their human resources management structure. About two-thirds of the state’s more than 30,000 employees are classified within the merit system. The system’s last major reform was in 1982 under Gov. George Nigh.

House Bill 3094 passed the House 92-1. It is now available to be considered by the Senate.