State Question 765 passed Tuesday 60 percent to 40 percent. The question deals with the Department of Human Services, and explicitly uses the term, "abolishes."
However, Channel 8 spoke with Republican Representative Jason Nelson, who helped push this issue forward. He said the term "abolishes" is legal jargon, meaning DHS's administrative lay-out is removed from the Constitution. He said this change is strictly about the agency's administration and not about services.
"We had a commission of nine un-elected, unaccountable volunteer citizens that had sole control of the agency, by virtue of them being contained by the Oklahoma Constitution," said Nelson.
The change gives power to the agency's director, who is then accountable to the governor. There will now be four advisory boards dealing with administration, family/child issues, aging issues, and disability. They will be composed of at least five citizens who will then advise the director. They will be chosen by the governor, speaker, pro tempore, and the minority leaders.
This whole change is meant to make DHS more accountable to the public.
"We had problems over the last several years where we a commission that wasn't just negligent in reviewing child death cases, but hostile to the idea that they should be reviewing child death cases," said Nelson.
DHS spokeswoman Sheree Powell said no changes will be made to the services provided for those in need.
Rep. Nelson said DHS serves the most Oklahomans of any state agency. He hopes day-to-day operations will improve over time. He hopes some of the current commissioners will be chosen to sit on the advisory boards.
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