Six months after Oklahoma voters chose to scrap the board that oversees the Department of Human Services and replace it with citizen advisory panels, nearly half the positions on those panels remain unfilled. What's taking so long?
The panels will deal with the following areas of DHS: administration, disability issues, children and family issues, and aging services. Each panel will have five members, to be appointed by the governor and the majority and minority leaders in the state House and Senate.
House Speaker T.W. Shannon announced his appointees last week. That brought to 11 the number of men and women chosen thus far. Gov. Mary Fallin and Senate leader Brian Bingman each have one appointment outstanding, to the aging services and disability panels, respectively. House Minority Leader Scott Inman hasn't named his appointees; Senate Minority Leader Sean Burrage has filled a spot on aging services but not the other three.
Although these groups won't have decision-making authority over DHS, their work will be important in helping new director Ed Lake implement changes stemming from last year's settlement of a federal class-action lawsuit. That lawsuit, coupled with a number of high-profile cases involving children in the DHS system and concerns about the former DHS governing board, are what led to the ballot issue in November.
There may be good reasons for why this is taking so long. The Capitol is a busy place, and the elected officials charged with making these appointments have had plenty of other things to deal with during the legislative session. At the same time, finding citizens who are capable and also willing to give their time could be a challenge.
But voters endorsed the state question with the expectation that changes would soon follow. The remaining vacancies need to be filled so these panels can get on with the important work at hand.