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Backers of Oklahoma state question attempt to clear up voter confusion

Passage of State Question 765 would not abolish the Department of Human Services, they say, despite wording on the ballot measure that gives that impression.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: November 3, 2012
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“The way that the question was written really does create confusion and uncertainty,” he said.

Nelson said polls taken a month ago showed that 27 percent of voters were undecided on SQ 765, which could be due to confusion over the ballot wording.

Nelson led a four-member House of Representatives panel that spent several months talking with hundreds of agency workers, parents, judges and others who work with the agency to develop changes. Many agreed the DHS Commission needs to change, he said.

If voters approve SQ 765, then House Bill 3137 would take effect and would require the DHS director to be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate. The DHS commission now hires the director.

“What you have now is a commission that isn't elected, it's unaccountable and it insisted on remaining uninformed for years about child death cases and other issues and you've had the public and elected officials frustrated,” Nelson said. “We're asking the public to make the biggest reform of all to DHS and that is give their elected officials the ability to make changes to the agency.”

The commission, with six of the nine members appointed by Gov. Mary Fallin, last month hired Ed Lake as the agency's director. Nelson said Fallin intends to keep him on as director if the ballot measure is approved.

HB 3137 also would establish four citizen advisory panels that would oversee DHS operations and administration. The panels, made up of five members each appointed by the governor and legislative leaders, would look at four separate areas — children and family issues, developmental issues, aging issues and the agency's administration.

“So now you can focus more attention on each area,” Nelson said.