Senate wants final say on governor’s picks for State Police, Civil Service commissions

Proposals would affect oversight of Louisiana state troopers

By: - May 19, 2022 12:17 pm
Senate wants final say on governor’s picks for State Police, Civil Service commissions

The American and state flags sit on desks in the Louisiana Senate. (Greg LaRose/Louisiana Illuminator)

Louisiana lawmakers advanced two proposed constitutional amendments Wednesday that would give the Senate more power over gubernatorial appointments to the State Police Commission and Civil Service Commission.

Senate Bill 75 and Senate Bill 160, both sponsored by Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge, would amend the Louisiana Constitution to require Senate confirmation of anyone the governor appoints to the State Police and Civil Service commissions, respectively. Both bills advanced unopposed from the Committee on House and Governmental Affairs.

The State Police Commission is an independent civil service board for state troopers. It is the final authority on personnel matters of the Louisiana State Police. It has the power to reinstate troopers who are fired from the job and reject the findings of internal affairs investigations. The governor appoints six of the commission members; troopers select the seventh among fellow officers. 

Louisiana is the only state with a separate oversight commission for state police, and all other boards and commissions listed in the state constitution require Senate confirmation of gubernatorial appointments, Fields said. 

The State Civil Service Commission is a seven-member board with exclusive and final authority on all personnel matters concerning most other full-time state employees. It creates workplace rules, job qualifications and training standards and hears complaints and appeals from state agencies and employees, among other duties. 

The Civil Service Commission also has the power to overturn employee terminations and other actions taken by state agency heads. The governor appoints six commissioners, while the seventh is an employee representative that state workers elect.

Fields said he researched why exceptions were made for State Police and Civil Service.

“I could not come up with one single reason why we did not put confirmation in the constitution when we created it,” Fields said. “I just don’t know. There’s just really no good reason why we did not put the confirmation of these members.”

Rep. Polly Thomas, R-Metairie, was reluctant to support Fields’ legislation, saying she disapproved of the tradition that allows a single senator to “blackball” a nominee if the nominee lives in that senator’s district. The Louisiana Fraternal Order of Police opposes the bills, she added. 

Rep. Barry Ivey, R-Central, said the State Police and Civil Service commission appointments should be subject to legislative oversight because it gives the public some say on the appointments.

Fields’ bills next head to the House floor for consideration, where approval is needed from two-thirds of the representatives. If passed, voters would consider the amendments in November.

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Wesley Muller
Wesley Muller

Wes Muller traces his journalism roots back to 1997 when, at age 13, he built and launched a hyper-local news website for his New Orleans neighborhood. In the years since then, he has freelanced for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans and worked on staff at the Sun Herald in Biloxi, WAFB-9News CBS in Baton Rouge, and the Enterprise-Journal in McComb, Mississippi. He also taught English as an adjunct instructor at Baton Rouge Community College. Much of his journalism has involved reporting on First Amendment issues and coverage of municipal and state government. He has received recognitions including McClatchy's National President's Award, the Associated Press Freedom of Information Award, and the Daniel M. Phillips Freedom of Information Award from the Mississippi Press Association, among others. Muller is a New Orleans native, a Jesuit High School alumnus, a University of New Orleans alumnus and a veteran U.S. Army paratrooper. He lives in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, with his two sons and his wife, who is also a journalist.

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