Despite protests by Arthenia Joyner, Hillsborough Civil Service overhaul passes

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Despite protests from Democratic Sen. Arthenia Joyner, the Florida Senate passed a proposal 27-10 on Friday giving Hillsborough County agencies the choice to opt out of the 63-year-old Civil Service Board.

Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times reports that HB 683, a relatively minor bureaucratic bill, set off a bitter dispute between Joyner and Hillsborough delegation members over the virtues of the Civil Service Board, founded in 1951 to guarantee fair employment procedures and prevent discrimination in Hillsborough County governmental agencies.

Most of the remaining Hillsborough County area lawmakers agreed the Civil Service Board has become too wasteful and costly to handle many of the county’s largest agencies, including the clerk of courts and Sheriff’s Office. Without the board, the county could save money when hiring employees. Three Democratic and two Republican agency heads agreed it was a good measure.

The bill overwhelmingly passed the House last week with a 105-3 vote, including support from the Hillsborough delegation, such as Tampa Democratic Reps. Mark Danish and Janet Cruz, as well as Rep. Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg. Rouson’s support was because unions stopped objecting.

However, Joyner used the obscure Senate Rule 4.18, which allows a Senator to pull local bills from consideration, in an attempt to quash the bill, citing the Civil Service Board was too significant to tamper with. Joyner did admit the board needed improvement.

Republican Rep. Dana Young, sponsor of HB 683 referred to Joyner’s maneuver as “undemocratic.”

On Wednesday, Sen. Tom Lee, swiftly waived the rules, placing HB 683 back on the special order calendar, effectively withdrawing Joyner’s ploy.

“I don’t quarrel with her right to do what she did, but she did owe her delegation colleagues some notice,” Lee told Van Sickler afterward. “The rules also allow to get the bill back on track, and that’s what I did.”

Joyner stands by her objection.

“History shows that if people who have total control and no uniform system of hiring that they invariably do what they want to do,” Joyner declared before the Senate vote. “The civil service system protects the workers. There may be some merit in this, but I thought it deserved a pause, and that’s why I pulled the bill.”

Nine other Democrats also supported Joyner in opposing the bill, as well as Republican Sens. Lee, John Legg and Jeff Brandes. Jack Latvala and Wilton Simpson abstained.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.