Joined by state employees, legislators and members of his Cabinet, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today signed the Tennessee Excellence, Accountability and Management (TEAM) Act into law on the Tennessee Tower plaza across from the State Capitol in Nashville.
"State government's role is to provide services that Tennesseans aren't able to get on their own, and I believe it is my job to make sure we're providing them in the most customer-focused, efficient and effective way," Haslam said just before signing the bill into law. "In the next five years, almost 40 percent of state employees will become eligible for retirement, and in facing this challenge, it is our responsibility to build a top notch workforce for the future.
"For decades, employment decisions in state government have been based solely on seniority with job performance never being considered, and employees have either received modest, across the board pay increases or nothing at all. No one has been able to convince me that is a good way to manage our employees or serve our taxpayers. We have to do better. It is what hard working employees deserve and what taxpayers expect."
The TEAM Act calls for two divisions of state service: preferred service and executive service. Executive service employees remain "at-will" as they currently serve. Preferred service replaces the traditional "career service" designation and preserves a streamlined appeals process along with other considerations.
Some of the changes to the state employment system made by the legislation include:
A new hiring system that requires agencies to define minimum qualifications and to identify specific knowledge, skills, abilities and competencies required for each position.
Veterans and their spouses will receive interview preference for both appointments and promotions, and if there are two candidates with equal qualifications, knowledge, skills, etc., preference will be given to the veteran.
An overhaul of the state's performance evaluation system to provide for performance standards and expected outcomes that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time sensitive (SMART goals).
In the event of a layoff, job performance becomes the primary consideration followed by seniority, abilities and disciplinary record, which also must be considered.
A new nine-member board of appeals to conduct a streamlined, three-step appeals process.
And a mediation process will also be established by the Department of Human Resources through rules.
"I appreciate all of the state employees that have been part of this discussion," Haslam said. "From the groups across the state who spent time with us last fall and were willing to give us real-world examples of the challenges they face every day; to the leadership and training organizations that are focused on professional development and growth opportunities for state employees; to the Tennessee State Employees Association who worked with us throughout this process, their involvement was productive and played a valuable role."
Sponsors of the TEAM Act include Sens. Mark Norris (R-Collierville) and Jack Johnson (R-Franklin), and Reps. Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga) and Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville).