This week lawmakers are expected to take up legislation reforming the Department of Human Services, including a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would eliminate the current DHS oversight commission, and a bill allowing the governor to appoint the agency director with Senate confirmation.
On the whole, we believe these measures merit support. The current system is simply not working as well as it should. DHS is the only state agency to be the subject of three class-action lawsuits in recent decades, and its track record of failure in child welfare cases is extensive.
Recent depositions made clear the current commission was simply rubber-stamping the director's recommendations. Under the new plan, at least the director (and the governor) would be under immense political pressure to improve the agency.
Furthermore, the governors of 49 other states have similar DHS appointment power, so Oklahoma would hardly be breaking new ground.
Some may fear regular turnover if the director is a political appointee, but we doubt a governor will want to take the heat for replacing a competent administrator. And rather than a revolving door, Oklahoma's problems have involved DHS directors hanging on for too long.