The Arizona state Senate voted this morning to give preliminary approval to a bill that would change the employee protections, known as the merit system, for state workers.

The Senate is expected to take a formal, and final, vote on House Bill 2571 later today. It has already gained House approval, but will likely need a final vote in the House before it heads to the governor's desk.

The bill is almost certain to get Gov. Jan Brewer's signature because she proposed the reforms to speed up the hiring process and make it easier to discipline, reward and fire state employees.

She asked legislators to approve the changes this year during her State of the State Address in January.

This is one of the final pieces of legislation the Legislature is working on before the House and Senate are expected to adjourn this week, according to comments various legislators have made today.

Republicans supporting the bill say it makes the state government more competitive with the private sector when seeking good employees. Democrats oppose the bill, saying it strips good employees of protection and is unnecessary.