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Higher ed personnel bill passes West Virginia Senate


The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING, W.Va.  — A measure giving West Virginia and Marshall universities the flexibility to remove employee “bumping rights” has passed the House of Delegates.

House Bill 2542 is intended to provide the schools more flexibility in human resources and personnel matters, and it permits WVU and Marshall to develop rules for classification and compensation. It also would allow any other state college or university to apply to the Higher Education Policy Commission or Community and Technical College Council for the same right.

The bill passed the House this week by a vote of 61-38 mostly along party lines. Republican delegates Patrick McGeehan and Mark Zatezalo of Hancock County, and Erikka Storch of Ohio County voted in favor, while Democrats Mike Ferro and Joe Canestraro of Marshall County, Phil Diserio of Brooke County and Shawn Fluharty of Ohio County voted in opposition.

Rob Alsop, vice president for legal, government and entrepreneurial engagement at WVU, said the university firmly supports the legislation. At present, the same human resources policies pertain to all state colleges and universities in West Virginia, and he said the measure would permit the larger universities to make local decisions on hiring they deem best for the university.

“We have more employees, and we compete in a different market,” Alsop said. “We would like to have our governing board and president make the decisions, because human resources is at the local level.”

He said WVU received $35.35 million less in state funding last year, and West Virginia’s leaders have encouraged state agencies to be more cost conscious as they seek ways to reduce West Virginia’s budget deficit.

“We’ve been asked to be more efficient, and this is a way to help us become more efficient,”Alsop said. “Today, if we were to do a layoff, we would have to call employees back solely on the basis of seniority. They can bump someone with less seniority.”

Alsop said there is no consideration of past performance evaluations or skill sets.

“We would like the ability to consider other factors than seniority if that is in the best interest of the institution,” he said.

Fluharty said he voted against the measure in the House because it eliminated the seniority qualification.

“I wondered how this would impact employees,” he said. “I see where there could be the ability for a lot of nepotism, and I’m concerned about the lower-level employees. I think it went too far. I understand the need for local engagement, but it went too broad and too far with the inability of the employees to have recall. I believe loyalty to an institution should be credited for, and this would take away the loyalty they might have had for decades.”

McGeehan said he voted for the bill because it allowed the universities more flexibility in employee management.

“It’s always good to seize central planning from Charleston and allow for more local control.”he said.

HB 2542 is now before the Senate Education Committee.

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