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Senate President Steve Sweeney. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Bipartisan bill would allow public employee reassignment during pandemic

Sweeney, O’Scanlon, Doherty backing measure that would waive civil service classifications during emergencies

By Nikita Biryukov, May 11 2020 11:11 am

Senate President Steve Sweeney and two of the upper chamber’s Republican members are pushing a bill that would allow the state to assign state and local employees outside their civil service classification during public emergencies.

“We recognize the impact the COVID crisis is having on the state’s ability to respond in a timely way to the emergent needs of the public and want to do what we can to improve the effectiveness of services, especially unemployment benefits,” Sweeney and Sens. Declan O’Scanlon and Michael Doherty said in a joint statement.

“We will introduce legislation that will allow for the temporary transfer of state workers during public emergencies to where they are needed most,” they said. “This will enable the strategic redeployment of human resources to respond to critical needs in times of crises.”

In part, the bill is a meant to reduce the backlog of unemployment claims by providing the Department of Labor with additional employees.

We are now experiencing the most severe levels of unemployment since the Great Recession.

“We know that the public workers who are responsible for providing vital services are working tirelessly, but they need additional support,” the senators said. “We have faith in the willingness and ability of other workers to come to their assistance. This legislation will allow them to do just that.”

The measure is not on the agenda of any committees meeting this week, though it could be added to the list of bills being heard by the Senate Labor or Senate Budget Committees on Tuesday.

“Essential workers in the public and private sectors who continue to put themselves at risk in service to us all deserve our support and appreciation,” the lawmakers said. “Together, we will emerge from this crisis stronger than ever.”

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