Oklahoma Election 2012: Yes on State Question 765

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State Question 765 is a legislative referendum to amend Article XXV of the Oklahoma Constitution by repealing sections 2, 3, and 4 and adding a new section 6. I support this question because it makes the Oklahoma Department of Human Services fully accountable to our elected officials and thus more accountable to the voters.

Those of us with long memories will recall Lloyd Rader's 31-year reign as head of the Department of Public Welfare. He was forced to resign after a series of national exposés revealed rampant neglect, the apparent use of patronage to control legislators who might have attempted to rein him in, and the use of state funds to hire detectives to follow and harass the reporters investigating him. A Tulsa Tribune political cartoon of the period depicted Rader as an octopus with his tentacles wrapped around the State Capitol. (One of Rader's few defenders after the scandal broke? State Sen. Gene Stipe.)

While there have been legislative reforms of the department, the constitutional structure that allowed such concentration of power and lack of accountability remains in place.

If you click that link, you'll see that there was some debate about how best to represent this question on the ballot, because the names currently in use for these agencies and roles don't match their constitutional names.

Here's a quick summary of how I plan to vote on all the questions:

SQ 758: NO
SQ 759: YES
SQ 762: NO
SQ 764: NO
SQ 765: YES
SQ 766: YES

State Sen. Rick Brinkley (R-Collinsville) has written an excellent article on why SQ 765 should be approved, and he prefaces it by explaining briefly why we have so many state questions each year. With his permission, I'm publishing it here at BatesLine.

State Question 765 - The Most Poorly Written of the State Questions on the Ballot.

Some of you have asked my opinion on the 6 State Questions on the Ballot on Tuesday. I will attempt to share some light on a few of them over the next several days. But, first, you have to have a bit of history on the reason there are state questions every year for you to consider. The State of Oklahoma has the longest Constitution of any state and ours is far longer than the constitution of the United States and most other Nations from around the world. Everything from the definition of Beer to the Flash Point of Kerosene is in the Constitution. In all practical senses, any change to the Constitution requires a vote of the people.

In the 1930s, what is now called the Department of Human Services was made a Constitutional Agency. This means that it answers to a Commission established in the Constitution and is subject to oversight by neither the Governor nor the Legislature, but strictly the Commission. The Department of Human Services currently employs over 7,000 people.

The State Question is written in such a way that it appears it completely does away with the Department of Human Services. In actuality, it does away with the Commission and makes the Department more accountable to the Governor and the Legislature. The number of children who have died while in DHS Custody and the number of Class Action Lawsuits filed in regard to poor performance are enough for most people to understand that with so little oversight this agency and its leadership have failed to deliver the services it needs to deliver with little fear of repercussion.

This is about policy and structure. There are thousands of DHS workers who are committed to their jobs and those that they serve and this should not be seen as an indictment of every DHS worker. Despite how poorly written the State Question is other laws already in place guarantee the continuation of the Department.

This State Question has wide bipartisan support, including support from former Commission members. In my experience, the only people I have read or heard who are against this state question are former Commission Members and former Top DHS Officials.

Those opposed to Question 765 blame the legislature for not funding the Department to the level they desire. Additional Funding will not correct the lack of Accountability and Bureaucracy that have failed to deliver the services our children and most vulnerable deserve. This enables Governor Fallin and future Governors to respond quickly to necessary changes that must be made in the Department. This places additional responsibilities upon our Governors to react to public outcry and not be forced to idly sit on their hands waiting for a commission to act.

Please vote "YES" on State Question 765.

(As an aside, you currently have approximately 8,000 children in YOUR CUSTODY. These are Children in Foster Care in our State. The people of Oklahoma are responsible for these children who have found themselves in your custody through no action of their own. We have a responsibility to provide for them the best we can and the best they deserve.)

If you're on Facebook, you can subscribe to Sen. Rick Brinkley's public updates, which are consistently thought-provoking and inspirational.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on November 1, 2012 8:08 AM.

Oklahoma Election 2012: No on State Question 758 was the previous entry in this blog.

Oklahoma Election 2012: Yes on State Question 766 is the next entry in this blog.

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