Voters approve overhaul of DHS authority


OKLAHOMA CITY — Big changes are in store for Oklahoma’s biggest and most vilified agency.

Tuesday night voters passed six state questions, including SQ 765.

That ballot issue forever reforms the way the DHS does business.

Despite some voter confusion, the DHS still exists, but who is in charge of overseeing the agency has changed and not everyone thinks the change is a such a good idea.

“To me it was the wrong decision,” Rep. Richard Morrissette said.

Essentially, voters eliminated the DHS commission and handed all decision-making authority to the DHS director, who in turn answers directly to the governor.

“Now we’ll have one director making decisions like a dictator over the largest agency in state government,” Morrissette said.

“We’ve now given the public the ability to hold the legislature and governor accountable for what happens at DHS,” Rep. Jason Nelson said.

Nelson, who helped author the state question, said the goal is to allow more oversight of DHS from the statehouse and citizens.

“It’s good for people the DHS serves because it makes it accountable to the public through their elected officials,” Nelson said.

“A lot of people thought it abolished the agency but it did not,” DHS spokesperson Sheree Powell said. “This new structure will create more accountability. The director answers to the governor and the governor answers to the people of Oklahoma.”

Powell says confusing wording on the ballot has led to lots of calls to the D-H-S offices after the election, but she says for now day to day operations of the agency remain unaffected.

“Our primary concern is making sure people know if they’re receiving services from DHS that will not change,” Powell said.

The State Question also creates four citizen advisory boards.

Those will be appointed by the governor and the legislature.

Their role will be to provide guidance and advise to the governor on issues that come before the DHS.