House approves DHS reforms

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

House legislators laws regarding approved a series of reforms to Oklahoma’s the Department of Human Services. This legislation was created by a group appointed by House leadership to study the issue. These are important steps in the right direction, but there is still much that needs to be done.

House Bill 3135 allows DHS to disclose confirmation of a child’s safety or if that child has been taken into custody when child abuse or neglect is alleged and that information has been made public by a law enforcement agency. Transparency has been a problem with DHS. This legislation will increase transparency, while continuing to protect the identities of children and their families.

House Bill 3133 authorizes the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth to employ administrative law judges to preside over hearings of the Department of Human Services’ Office of Child Advocacy. The intent of this legislation is to bring outside oversight for these hearings.

House Joint Resolution 1092 will give voters the opportunity to authorize the Legislature to determine the composition and duties of the Human Services Commission. This is coupled with House Bill 3137, which gives lawmakers statutory authority to oversee the Human Services Commission. I believe the commission has failed to act at critical moments and I support empowering lawmakers to take action if the commission fails to do so.

House Bill 3134 directs DHS to change its organizational structure to make personnel that are responsible for the development of policy also accountable for the implementation of that policy. House Bill 3136 directs DHS to create a certification process for child welfare workers. How these two bills are implemented will determine whether or not they have a positive effect.

Lawmakers also approved legislation to require drug testing of Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF) recipients. As a matter of principle, I think taxpayers deserve to see their money spent on those who truly need aid.

As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407.

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