Oklahoma's state questions to bring changes

DHS still exists. That's the first thing Oklahoma Department of Human Services officials want the public to know in the wake of Oklahoma voters' overwhelming approval of six state questions that have generated as many questions as they have provided answers.
by Randy Ellis Published: November 8, 2012

DHS still exists.

That's the first thing Oklahoma Department of Human Services officials want the public to know in the aftermath of Oklahoma voters' overwhelming approval of six state questions that have generated as many questions as they have provided answers.

“Our county offices are still open today to provide benefits to people who need them,” said Sheree Powell, DHS spokeswoman.

Public confusion about the status of the agency was created by ballot language that called for amending the state constitution to abolish the “Oklahoma Department of Human Services, the Oklahoma Commission of Human Services” and position of agency director.

While references to the agency and its director were eliminated from the constitution by Tuesday's vote, the agency and its director still exist in state laws so they will continue to operate, officials said.

The agency's governing commission will dissolve. That will take place once election results are certified Tuesday and filed with the secretary of state.

The DHS director will then report to the governor.

Under state law, the governor and legislative leaders will appoint four citizen advisory panels to oversee DHS operations. The panels, made up of five members each, will look at four separate areas — children and family issues, developmental issues, aging issues and the agency's administration.

Spokesmen for the governor's office and House and Senate leaders said officials will move as quickly as possible to make the appointments.

John Estus, spokesman for House Speaker Kris Steele, said Steele will be consulting with Speaker-designate T.W. Shannon, since Steele will be leaving office, and hopes that joint appointments can be made.

Some officials have expressed concerns that the new advisory panels will be duplicative of the work being done by three existing advisory panels — the State Council on Aging, Child Care Advisory Committee, and Advisory Committee on Services to Persons with Developmental Disabilities.

by Randy Ellis
Capitol Bureau Reporter
For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two...
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