Civil Service Commission reform has bipartisan backing

Pennsylvania State Sens. Mike Folmer (R., Lebanon) and Randy Vulakovich (R., Allegheny) — with the backing of Gov. Wolf’s administration and a number of Democratic senators such as Daylin Leach (D., Delaware) and Andrew Dinniman (D., Chester) — have introduced legislation they say will “modernize” the independent Pennsylvania Civil Service Commission by taking away its hiring, application, certification, examination, and promotion responsibilities and transferring them to the Governor’s Office of Administration.

The proposal would limit the commission to handling appeals by disgruntled candidates or employees.

Language in the bill appears to allow both the commission and the administration department to audit state hiring. If the governor’s office is given full powers, a future governor could return the state to an old-fashioned political patronage system for filling and vacating jobs, current commission chairman Bryan Lentz and former chairman Marwan Kreidie have both warned.

Who will control audits and have the power to stop prospective hiring abuse? Audit is “an area we may need to look at. A number of people have highlighted that is an area where we might need more clarity,” said Fred Sembach, an aide to State Sen. Folmer. He said there would be a hearing to review bill provisions.

State Sens. Folmer and Vulakovich and Gov. Wolf’s Secretary of Administration, Sharon P. Minnich, a former executive at Deloitte Consulting, one of the state’s leading suppliers of outsourced information technology employees, all say the reforms are supposed to speed hiring by allowing more job applicants to apply online or via smartphone. They say the commission has taken too long to help implement online hiring.

But Lentz says the commission and most of the state’s departments have already moved to accept remote job applications. He also says corrections officer positions at the state’s 25 prisons and many other state jobs still require in-person applications and shouldn’t be forced to go all online prematurely.