Thursday, November 1, 2012

Commentary: DHS will be improved, not abolished by SQ765

Oklahoma Capitol - A recent letter from Senior Assistant Attorney General Sandra Rinehard helps clarify what will happen if State Question 765 is approved by voters next week.

Rinehart wrote in an October 19, letter, "The ballot title informed the voters of the repeal of the constitutional provisions and informed the voters of the added powers of the Legislature to enact laws to create a department or departments to administer and carry out the duties of the Department of Human Services." 

SQ765 simply removes provisions of our state Constitution added in 1936 that required the creation of a Department of Public Welfare. DHS will not be abolished. 

Rinehart says, "We recognize that, in anticipation of the passage of the constitutional proposal, the Legislature enacted HB 3137. That legislation, among other provisions, creates four Citizen Advisory Panels to evaluate programs and develop recommendations and gives the Governor appointment power."

House Bill 3137 only goes into effect if voters approve SQ765.

House Bill 3137 says, “The Governor shall have the power and duty to select a Director of Human Services who shall serve as executive and administrative officer of the Department of Human Services. The Director shall be appointed wholly on the basis of ability, training and experience qualifying him or her for public welfare administration. The Director shall serve, subject to the confirmation of the Senate, at the pleasure of the Governor.”

Currently the unelected, unaccountable DHS Commission selects the Director of the agency. 

House Bill 3137 also creates “four Department of Human Services Citizens Advisory Panels to evaluate core program and administrative areas of the Department and to develop recommendations to improve the programs and administration of the Department.  These Panels are for Children and Family Issues, Aging Issues, Disability Issues and Administration.  Each Panel shall be composed of five (5) members.  Each appointee shall demonstrate an interest or expertise in the area of responsibility of the Panel to which the member is appointed.”

The current system doesn't work. SQ765 and HB 3137 make DHS accountable to the public and will give the Governor and Legislature the tools they need to reform DHS. Oklahoma is the only state to have a dysfunctional commission system running their human services agency. Let's abolish the Constitutional Commission and bring real reform to DHS. 

Vote YES on SQ765 on November 6!

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