State Sen. Jo Comerford files hiring transparency bill

  • State Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton  FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 7/5/2019 11:48:51 PM
Modified: 7/5/2019 11:48:37 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Although the state’s hiring guidelines require all vacant government jobs to be posted online, questions linger about whether all employment opportunities are available to the public. A bill introduced in the state Senate is looking to codify that guideline into law in an effort to increase transparency and provide a level playing field.

Sponsored by state Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, the bill is the latest development in a 24-year battle waged by Hadley resident and former teacher Thomas McGee. McGee has been advocating for the equal posting of all jobs on the state job board — managerial or otherwise — since 1995.

McGee has testified numerous times on Beacon Hill to advocate for the legislation’s passage. But each time, the bill failed to advance, usually dying in the House Ways and Means Committee.

The legislation would ensure transparency and fairness in the state job market, McGee said, noting that current hiring practices make it difficult for minorities and veterans in rural areas of Massachusetts such as the Pioneer Valley to be considered for jobs for which they qualify.

“There are a lot of people in the private sector who need the opportunity to find a job,” McGee said.

McGee said his campaign began when he petitioned former state Rep. Nancy Flavin, D-Easthampton, to introduce the bill. According to McGee, in March 1996, the bill had passed the state Senate, but never made it past the House.

In 2015, the bill, sponsored former state Rep. John Scibak of South Hadley, was given a favorable referral from the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development to Ways and Means, but it also did not move any further.

Staying persistent, McGee kept advocating for the bill. Last year, the bill seemed to be progressing again, as it was given a recommendation from the Joint Committee on Public Service to Ways and Means. But the bill never made it out of committee.

When McGee approached Comerford’s office with the bill, he said they had initially told him he was too late, as initial bills had already been introduced last January. However, Comerford’s office re-examined the bill and introduced it this year.

“I’m pleased they introduced the bill,” McGee said.

Brian Rosman, Comerford’s legislative director, said Friday that the bill would “expand the pool of qualified candidates” by making every state job available for any person interested in a position.

Rosman and McGee both agree that hiring for state jobs seem to be dominated by internal promotions and word of mouth.

“For some jobs, it seems like people have the inside track and know about job openings before others,” Rosman said. “This [bill] will allow a single systemized way to make jobs available for everyone.”

“The job should be filled by the most qualified people who meet the criteria,” McGee said.

Rosman said the bill must now be approved by the Joint Committee on Rules and then assigned to another committee to be adjudicated. He said the bill will most likely land with the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development.

Rosman said Comerford’s office is aware of the challenges the bill has had in the past. When asked if he anticipated any opposition to the legislation, he said he did not know.

“She’s going to give it a push,” he said of Comerford.

Regardless of the outcome, Rosman said Comerford’s office is taking the process “one step at a time,” noting that they anticipate a discussion in committee about potential costs the bill might incur — though he said those would be minimal.

“This is a strong bill, a serious bill that can move along on its merits,” Rosman said.

McGee said he’s hopeful that the bill will be given a fair shake in the current legislative session.

“It’s long overdue,” he said. “It’s a necessary piece of legislation.”

Michael Connors can be reached at mconnors@gazettenet.com.


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