Raleigh, N.C. — The number of political appointees in state government will increase under a bill the state Senate approved Wednesday.
House Bill 834 is a package of changes to state personnel law sought by Gov. Pat McCrory, who has told lawmakers he needs more latitude in dealing with state workers.
Initially opposed by the State Employees Association of North Carolina, the measure is now backed by the workers' group and Democrats.
"This is a long-awaited moment for me this session," said Sen. Martin Nesbitt, D-Buncombe. "This is a good bill."
Nesbitt typically finds himself opposing high-profile bills pushed by Republican leaders.
The measure will raise the number of "at-will" employees who can be hired and fired by the governor without cause from 1,000 to 1,500. It also streamlines the process for dealing with workers who have been suspended or are under investigation.
Over the past two years, nearly 900 state workers were sent home while the state investigated their workplace conduct, according to a recent WRAL News investigation. While on investigatory leave, the workers collected more than $1.7 million in salaries, state personnel records show.
Senators passed the bill 49-0.
The measure must now return to the state House for concurrence. It would then go to McCrory for his signature.