Oklahoma House Gives Governor More Control of Human Services

The Oklahoma House passed measures to do away with the state Human Services Commission and give the governor greater authority over the state's largest agency.
by | May 23, 2012

By Wayne Greene, Tulsa World, Okla.

The Oklahoma House passed measures Tuesday to do away with the state Human Services Commission and give the governor greater authority over the state's largest agency.

"This is a major paradigm shift, and that's the point," said Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City.

Under House Joint Resolution 1092 -- approved on a 80-7 vote -- voters will be asked whether to do away with the commission, which has been operating the Department of Human Services since the 1930s.

If that proposal is approved, the governor would get the authority to hire and fire the DHS director, under a separate piece of legislation, approved on a 67-23 vote Tuesday.

Both proposals go to the Senate for final legislative consideration.

Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, argued that the new structure strikes at the state's populist tradition of government.

Morrissette warned that giving the governor more authority would politicize the DHS director's job, but Nelson said under the current system no one is responsible for the agency's success or failure.

Nelson said the state needs to move to a more responsible system for running the agency.

"These measures will make a necessary, positive culture change at DHS," said Speaker of the House Kris Steele, R-Shawnee. "The system has been struggling under an outdated, ineffective governance model that has tended to isolate the agency from any real accountability. Under these reforms, it will be perfectly clear that this agency answers to all the people of Oklahoma. Vulnerable citizens will be far better served as a result."

(c)2012 Tulsa World (Tulsa, Okla.)

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