Missouri lawmakers are looking to clean up statutes surrounding state employment processes by eliminating an advisory board and consolidating power in a position with a new appointee.
Legislation working through the Missouri House and Senate would disband Missouri's Personnel Advisory Board and shift its responsibilities to the Office of Administration's Division of Personnel, primarily the division's director.
Gov. Mike Parson appointed Alyssa Bish, of Columbia, to the role Jan. 6. The Senate committee responsible for approving gubernatorial appointments unanimously confirmed her for the job Wednesday, sending it to the full body for a vote.
Bish previously served as OA's director of strategy and leadership development, a role she assumed in November 2021. Before that, she was the department's director of talent development. She earned a doctorate in communications and master's degree in public affairs from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Bish's role as it relates to personnel issues within state agencies will be expanded through legislation sponsored by Rep. Dave Griffith, R-Jefferson City, and Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City. The identical bills would eliminate the Personnel Advisory Board, which is tasked with providing oversight on personnel issues within all state departments and agencies.
The Personnel Advisory Board was established by the State Personnel Law and its members are appointed by the governor. Four of its members are supposed to be public taxpayers who are not state employees or elected officials, two are supposed to be state employees and the final member is Missouri's equal employment opportunity officer.
The board prescribes state employment rules and approves job classifications and salary plans prepared by OA's Division of Personnel. It also makes suggestions to the governor and Division of Personnel director on employment matters. The Division of Personnel director sets the board's monthly agenda.
Griffith said he was told the board hadn't been used since the 1970s when OA first approached him about sponsoring legislation to eliminate it.
"Indeed, they were meeting regularly -- monthly as a matter of fact," Griffith said.
He said he questioned OA about it and was told another board performs the same functions so there was no need for the Personnel Advisory Board.
"There was duplication of services and duplication of efforts by two different boards that we had, so what I was trying to do was to eliminate one," Griffith said, adding it was OA's request to eliminate the Personnel Advisory Board.
Bernskoetter said he filed his bill after he was approached by OA as well. Duties of the board, including jurisdiction over merit employees, were transferred to the Administrative Hearing Commission through previous legislation, he said.
"There actually is still a Personnel Advisory Board but the Division of Personnel prepares all the information, documentation for the board to hold meetings and it's just a cumbersome process," Bernskoetter said.
Of the board's seven seats, four are vacant. The two members of the public still serving on the board are serving on terms that expired in 2010 and 2014. The last occupied seat is the state's equal opportunity director. Someone was last appointed to the board in 2009.
"It's just kind of an outdated system," Bernskoetter said.
Under the proposed legislation, OA's Division of Personnel director would be responsible for designating new positions to a job class, changing job classifications and making changes to the state's job classification plan -- a function that currently requires board approval, according to state statute.
The director will also be responsible for setting salary ranges for department directors and members of Missouri's parole board -- both functions currently resting with the Personnel Advisory Board.
Bernskoetter said elimination of the board may close an avenue for the public to provide input on state employee personnel matters but "evidently it must not be a big thing because nobody wants to serve on it." He noted, however, that the state regularly has issues finding volunteers to serve on boards.
"It's still being done, it's just being done by somebody else and not by citizens," Bernskoetter said.
Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, presented Bish to the committee and said her resume speaks for itself. The committee didn't ask her questions and she didn't offer comment.
"I've now heard from a number of folks who have worked with her in various capacities within the administration and all say that she is incredibly talented, incredibly energetic and is willing to engage in any situation to try to find a solution when a problem exists," Rowden said.
Griffith said he's absolutely confident the proposed system will be able to address state employee personnel concerns effectively and more efficiently.
"Quite frankly, I've got to trust the Office of Administration to be working in the best interest of the state of Missouri for issues that we have, as far as personnel goes as well," Griffith said. "I think if we can find more efficiencies and find better ways of doing things, then I think that's incumbent upon us to do that."
SB 110: Abolishes the Personnel Advisory Board