Two Senate committees this morning unanimously supported Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to create a mega-human resources department that will draw from the state's Personnel Board and Department of Personnel Administration.
The Senate Governmental Organization Committee, chaired by Sen. Rod Wright, D-Inglewood, and the Senate Public Employment and Retirement Committee, chaired by Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, asked several government officials whether the plan would weaken state employees' civil service protections.
Eventually, the questions moved to a set of statewide employee discipline guidelines -- the so-called "discipline matrix" -- that the new California Department of Human Resources will eventually write for departments' HR managers.
The Brown administration says the guidelines will be a useful tool to help standardize employee discipline, which is widely disparate right now. Unions have been concerned that the new rules might dilute the Personnel Board's constitutionally guaranteed independence when considering workplace discipline appeals because the merger plan calls for the board to give "consideration and respect" to the new matrix.
"That is an undefined standard," said Brooks Ellison, speaking for California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers in State Employment. "It's confusing, which is exactly what (the state) is trying avoid with the matrix."
Despite that, Ellison said that the union supports the aims of the departments' merger and doesn't oppose the plan. The position reflected the Brown administration's recent legwork to assure CASE and other unions that there's nothing nefarious in the merger proposal.
Wright suggested that the dispute over the controversial phrase can be hammered out in follow-up legislation next year. The Governmental Committee then voted 11-0 to support the merger. The Public Employment and Retirement Committee tallied a 4-0 vote in support. Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles voted twice, since he is a member of both committees.
PHOTO: Sen. Rod Wright, D-Los Angeles / 2009 Sacramento Bee file, Hector Amezcua