Amendment S proposes changes to state personnel system
November 2, 2012
Proposed Colorado Amendment S asks voters to approve the first changes in 40 years to the state employee personnel system, which would impact approximately 32,500 employees in full- and part-time permanent positions in state government.
There are four main areas that the amendment affects – employee exemptions, testing and hiring procedures, preferences available to military veterans and the terms and standards of the State Personnel Board.
If passed, the amendment would increase the number of potential employee exemptions, change testing and hiring procedures to evaluate candidates beyond test scores, expand hiring preferences for veterans and reduce the terms of service and duties for members of the State Personnel Board, while adjusting the standards to remove members.
Similar amendments have been brought up nine times since 1918, and have been rejected by voters.
Amendment S is one of three amendments voters will see on their ballots this election season.
Proponents for the amendment include Gov. John Hickenlooper, as well as two former governors – Bill Ritter and Bill Owens.
The benefits of the amendment, claims the group “Vote Yes on S,” include modernization of the state government, increased prioritization for hiring military veterans, better hiring practices in general and increased accountability.
According to “Vote Yes on S,” these benefits will come without any cost to the taxpayers or the state government. The current system, its website states, has led to problems with hiring backlogs and business delays.
“For the state to be able to keep up with 21st-century businesses, it’s important that we pass these kinds of measures,” said “Vote Yes on S” campaign spokesman George Merritt.
Proponents of Amendment S believe that the changes in the hiring process will be highly beneficial. The current process narrows the pool of potential hires to three, based on a standardized test. The new system would allow the pool to be six potential hires, and final decision to be based on other evaluative methods.
So far, the amendment has received the unanimous support of the Colorado Legislature, which voted to put it on the ballot. Several newspapers statewide have endorsed it, including The Denver Post.
“Even in this contentious election cycle, there’s one thing we can all agree on, and that’s Amendment S,” Merritt said.
The Colorado Citizens for Good Government has come out in opposition of the amendment, led by former state Rep. Miller Hudson and attorney Nora Kelly.
Its website, “No on Amendment S,” offers a list of reasons why voters should vote against the proposed amendment. It claims that the jobs created by the amendment are unnecessary, and will ultimately cost the taxpayers money, despite claims to the contrary. It also raises the concern that the amendment paves the way for future misuse by elected officials.
Rather than modernizing the system, opponents argue that Amendment S will take Colorado back to what is known as a “spoils system,” which is when officials give positions to friends, family members and allies.
“It’s going to strip all the protections that state workers currently have,” said Hudson.
Getting rid of the standardized testing system in the hiring process has also raised concerns. Hudson worries that the new evaluation process would be too vague, and that the test is valuable in assessing a potential employee’s skills.
“I don’t care if they’re charming at a cocktail party,” Hudson said. “I want them to take a test to demonstrate they have the skills that are demanded for the responsibilities that they’ll be assigned.”