Numerous articles have appeared in the news media recently about our state's financial problems during the current fiscal session of the Louisiana Legislature. However, a very harmful non-fiscal bill has stayed under the radar that could cause great harm to the city of New Orleans. Senate Bill 247 by J. P. Morrell purports to make all employees of the Sewerage and Water Board, except unskilled workers, hired after August 15th, unclassified employees without civil service protection.
Not only is this bill an extremely bad idea but also we feel it is blatantly unconstitutional. Article 10 of the State Constitution of 1974 clearly states that all employees of the city of New Orleans shall be covered under a constitutional “merit” civil service system except those expressly excluded under Article 10 Section (2) B. Sewerage and Water Board employees are not listed in the excluded group. This is an attempt by Sen. Morrell to bypass constitutional provisions and pass an unlawful bill. Passage of this legislation would also deny new Sewerage and Water Board employees much-needed political activities or “little Hatch Act” protection that all current classified employees enjoy.
Another serious drawback of this legislation is that is sets a bad precedent. What is to prevent the city administration from attempting to remove other groups of employees such as firemen, policemen, or even the 1,168 current employees of the Sewerage and Water Board from civil service protection and place them in the political arena? These constitutional provisions are there to protect the taxpayers of New Orleans who are the real employers of these workers, from having a politicized workforce. These provisions also protect the jobs of covered employees as long as they perform their jobs according to specifications. Conversely the system provides for their termination if they do not perform.
We hope Senator Morrell will rethink this destructive piece of legislation.
Daniel E. Sullivan
executive vice-president, Louisiana Civil Service League