DHS needs meaningful oversight

765 is aimed at bringing long-overdue reforms at the Department of Human
Services, which impacts more lives than almost any other agency.

the last decade, news headlines have exposed case after case of tragedy
and failure by DHS. It’s clear that change is needed. Every department,
program, and employee needs to be scrutinized to ensure they are at
optimal performance in helping the people the agency is designed to
serve and protect.

for all its pitfalls, is comprised of many dedicated employees who work
hard to serve our state. The underlying problem with the agency is a
flawed structure that stymies real reform and accountability. It is a
system created to preserve and protect the status quo, which endangers
the well-being of our citizenry and leads to unacceptable outcomes.

governing structure was forced on Oklahoma and many other states during
the Great Depression as a prerequisite to receiving federal welfare
money. The vast majority of states have long since abandoned that
organizational structure and implemented more modern management
structures — but not Oklahoma.

We remain hamstrung by an outdated and ineffective model.

Constitution was amended in 1936 to create the Department of Public
Welfare. The accompanying commission was created to provide governance
and oversight. That commission consists of nine members each serving
nine-year terms, essentially nullifying the ability of the governor or
the Legislature to have any meaningful oversight or influence over the
direction of the agency.

its members are uncompensated volunteers who rarely get any information
beyond what the agency staff provides. This system gives the appearance
of accountability and stringent oversight with nary a hint of either.

far more preferable system is to hold the state’s highest elected
official and the Legislature accountable for the performance of the
agency; SQ 765 would provide just such a system.

legislatures and governors hid behind the wall of the state
constitution to tell citizens that DHS is a “constitutional agency,” and
that nothing much could be done about it.

That was partially true. SQ
765 will nullify this excuse by holding the governor and Legislature
directly responsible for the performance of DHS.

now have a governor and a Legislature willing to boldly step forward
and take responsibility and lead with courage and vision.

But we need voter approval to do so.

vote for SQ 765 will bring accountability to DHS. Legislation I carried
in the Senate (along with Speaker Kris Steele and Rep. Jason Nelson in
the House) was part of a package of reforms that, in the Senate,
received unanimous support from Republicans and Democrats.

Senate Democratic Leader Sean Burrage was involved in every step of the
process and supports the need for meaningful DHS reform.

ask that all Oklahomans, regardless of political stripe, join in the
transformation of DHS by voting for SQ 765 on Election Day.

Treat is a Republican representing District 47 in the Oklahoma State Senate.

Opinions expressed on
the commentary page, in letters to the editor and elsewhere in this
newspaper are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the
opinions of ownership or management.

Greg Treat

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