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Monday, August 8, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesBill Seeks More Senate Oversight of Government Personnel Decisions

Bill Seeks More Senate Oversight of Government Personnel Decisions

The V.I. government will have to certify employee transfers and dismiss workers "based solely on merit;" provide annual reports outlining plans to restructure government agencies; and provide details of government employee attendance reports and other information, if a bill before the Legislature becomes law.

The measure, sponsored by Sens. Craig Barshinger and Janette Millin Young, mandates the governor submit to the Legislature a restructuring plan including:

  • every agency’s mission statement;
  • a report of the "measured effectiveness" of each agency;
  • a report of how each agency will be restructured, including details on any transfers, training and dismissals;
  • a certification from each agency that all "retentions transfers and dismissals will be based solely on merit;"
  • financial projections based on restructuring, and;
  • a timetable for the restructuring.

It also would require the director of personnel to report:

  • the number of annual employee evaluations;
  • the number of employee attendance reports;
  • the number of government employees on extended leave and time they have been on leave;
  • the cost of all workers being paid while on administrative leave;
  • the number and cost of workers hired under personal service contracts.

"There must be an avoidance of layoffs," Barshinger said while introducing the bill in the Housing and Government Services Committee Monday on St. Thomas.

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More layoffs and more employees taking early retirement will worsen the V.I. Government Employee Retirement System’s unfunded liability, as fewer employees pay into the system and more people start collecting retirement, Barshinger said. The bill aims to encourage retraining and cross-training employees before dismissing them, and to ensure that the executive and legislative branches communicate thoroughly, well in advance of disruptive changes, he said.

"I fear if we don’t do this there will be a shouting match between the governor and the Legislature, just like we had two years ago," Barshinger said. "This bill is a guide from the legislative branch to the executive branch to avoid that type of fiasco," he added.

Director of Management and Budget Debra Gottlieb testified against the bill, arguing that most of its provisions would simply require the government to duplicate information it already supplies the Legislature every year. And the rest would improperly step on executive prerogative.

"Mission statements and other performance data are provided with each executive budget submission and each quarterly and annual performance report provided to the Legislature," Gottlieb said.

"Most of the provisions … are duplicative and unnecessary because they will be incorporated as part of the fiscal year 2014 executive budget submission," she said, adding that the government restructures to some extent every year, especially during budget preparation, "out of necessity as a result of resource and other constraints and the availability of technology and innovation."

"I also believe that the provision that would require each department and agency head to certify that retentions, transfers and dismissals are based solely on merit, if enacted, would constitute an encroachment on executive prerogative," Gottlieb added.

Several senators left the hearing in the afternoon and the bill was held in committee; the meeting adjourned due to the absence of a quorum at around 4 p.m. Monday.

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The V.I. government will have to certify employee transfers and dismiss workers "based solely on merit;" provide annual reports outlining plans to restructure government agencies; and provide details of government employee attendance reports and other information, if a bill before the Legislature becomes law.

The measure, sponsored by Sens. Craig Barshinger and Janette Millin Young, mandates the governor submit to the Legislature a restructuring plan including:

  • every agency's mission statement;
  • a report of the "measured effectiveness" of each agency;
  • a report of how each agency will be restructured, including details on any transfers, training and dismissals;
  • a certification from each agency that all "retentions transfers and dismissals will be based solely on merit;"
  • financial projections based on restructuring, and;
  • a timetable for the restructuring.

It also would require the director of personnel to report:

  • the number of annual employee evaluations;
  • the number of employee attendance reports;
  • the number of government employees on extended leave and time they have been on leave;
  • the cost of all workers being paid while on administrative leave;
  • the number and cost of workers hired under personal service contracts.

"There must be an avoidance of layoffs," Barshinger said while introducing the bill in the Housing and Government Services Committee Monday on St. Thomas.

More layoffs and more employees taking early retirement will worsen the V.I. Government Employee Retirement System's unfunded liability, as fewer employees pay into the system and more people start collecting retirement, Barshinger said. The bill aims to encourage retraining and cross-training employees before dismissing them, and to ensure that the executive and legislative branches communicate thoroughly, well in advance of disruptive changes, he said.

"I fear if we don't do this there will be a shouting match between the governor and the Legislature, just like we had two years ago," Barshinger said. "This bill is a guide from the legislative branch to the executive branch to avoid that type of fiasco," he added.

Director of Management and Budget Debra Gottlieb testified against the bill, arguing that most of its provisions would simply require the government to duplicate information it already supplies the Legislature every year. And the rest would improperly step on executive prerogative.

"Mission statements and other performance data are provided with each executive budget submission and each quarterly and annual performance report provided to the Legislature," Gottlieb said.

"Most of the provisions ... are duplicative and unnecessary because they will be incorporated as part of the fiscal year 2014 executive budget submission," she said, adding that the government restructures to some extent every year, especially during budget preparation, "out of necessity as a result of resource and other constraints and the availability of technology and innovation."

"I also believe that the provision that would require each department and agency head to certify that retentions, transfers and dismissals are based solely on merit, if enacted, would constitute an encroachment on executive prerogative," Gottlieb added.

Several senators left the hearing in the afternoon and the bill was held in committee; the meeting adjourned due to the absence of a quorum at around 4 p.m. Monday.