LANSING, Mich. (AP/WLNS) – Republican state House Speaker Kevin Cotter has announced a two-bill package to make it easier for higher ranking government officials to fire state employees beneath them.
Cotter said Thursday that the legislation isn’t a reaction to the public health emergency in Flint.
It comes at a time, however, when Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and state workers face intense scrutiny after Flint’s water supply became contaminated with lead after the city began using water from the Flint River in 2014.
House Democratic Floor Leader Sam Singh said, “The Republican attempt to scapegoat civil servants for the disaster that occurred in Flint is reprehensible. It’s unfortunate the House Republicans are trying to gut the Civil Service Commission, which has served the state well for decades. The way House Speaker Kevin Cotter presents the situation, the casual observer may think Civil Service has no ability to hold state employees accountable. In fact, over 300 state employees were dismissed from their jobs in 2015. Clearly, there is already a mechanism in place to hold bad actors accountable. It is clear that this is an election year gimmick meant to distract from what actually took place.”
Gideon D’Assandro, a spokesman for Cotter, says protections for civil service workers are why only one employee from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has been fired. Two others face criminal charges related to the Flint water crisis.
Cotter called the timing “coincidental.” He says the bills promote accountability.
House Democratic Floor Leader Sam Singh added, “Gov. Rick Snyder’s own taskforce laid the blame for what occurred in Flint squarely at the feet of the governor, his administration and the culture they created. Instead of holding the administration accountable, House Republicans are using a diversion to undermine hardworking civil servants, who have been already been asked to make concession after concession. From the roads package to the response to the Flint water crisis to funding for Detroit Public Schools, House Republicans continue to push irresponsible policies that don’t actually solve problems.”