State Question 765 Proposes To Abolish Commission Over DHS

Tuesday, October 30th 2012, 10:25 pm
By: News On 6

One week from tonight, Oklahoma could vote to get rid of the commission overseeing Oklahoma's Department of Human Services.

It's one of the six state questions on the ballot.

Without a DHS commission, who would be in charge?

State question 765 has great implications, because it would give the governor greater authority over DHS.

10/30/2012 Related Story: Oklahoma Voters To Cast Ballots On Six State Questions

The Commission for Human Services is the nine-member governing board for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.

The commission was established in 1936 in the state constitution and State Question 765 proposes to eliminate it.

"I was very surprised the state question was on the ballot. I've been on the commission for eight years and it has been run very smoothly," said Aneta Wilkinson.

Wilkinson is a current commission member.

"People have cried out for a long time for more transparency, more openness on the DHS commission. This will completely do away with that," Wilkinson said.

Members are volunteers who are appointed by the Governor and the commission appoints the DHS director.

SQ 765 would dissolve the commission, enable the governor to hire a DHS director, and then four citizen oversight panels would offer expertise.

Former commission member Steven Dow loves the idea.

"It's time to put the responsibility in the hands of elected leaders rather than people who are not accountable to anyone," he said.

Dow said his time on the commission solidified his view.

He said the board wasn't serious about investigating its mistakes or finding good resolutions to several class action lawsuits.

"They would rather spend millions of dollars paying lawyers than investing that money in making our foster care system work better for the most vulnerable children in this state," Dow said.

He said Oklahoma is the only state where the Governor does not appoint the director of human services.

Wilkinson said she questions whether elected officials can make good decisions for the state's most vulnerable, when they haven't properly funded DHS in the first place.

Wilkinson and Dow both agree SQ 765 is poorly written on the ballot.

It actually proposes to "abolish DHS, the human services commission and the DHS director."

Supporters say DHS will still be around, but who governs it could change.