In his first veto, Gov. Stitt rejects citizen involvement (Capitol Update)

Governor Stitt vetoed his first bill last week. HB 1205, by Rep. Carol Bush and Sen. Greg McCortney, would have created an Oklahoma Home- and Community-Based Services Ombudsman Program Task Force to research, compile data, and make recommendations to the Governor and Legislature regarding the creation and operation of an ombudsman program to serve recipients of in-home care and services.

The state currently has a long-term care ombudsman located in DHS who serves residents of nursing homes, assisted living, and similar adult care homes. Presumably the task force would have studied the need and potential duties of a similar office for people who qualify for nursing home or similar facilities but who continue to live at home and receive services through the ADvantage Program. The ombudsman is an independent voice within the agency who receives complaints about the services and attempts to resolve them. The current ombudsman at DHS is Bill Whited.

The task force would have consisted of 13 members appointed by the Governor, Speaker, and President Pro Tempore or included because of their position. They were the current long-term care ombudsman, an Area Agency on Aging supervisor, the Director of the Association for Home Care and Hospice, a community-based provider association representative, two persons with a family member or friend receiving ADvantage services, one Aging Partnership Strategy Committee representative, a member from the Health Care Authority, a member from the Health Department, two persons having a family member or friend receiving Disability Services home- and community-based services, one member representing the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council who is receiving home based services, a member from the Oklahoma Protection and Advocacy System, and a representative of the Oklahoma Association of Centers for Independent Living.

In his veto message Governor Stitt said, “The safety of those Oklahomans receiving in-home and community-based care and services is of utmost concern to me. While I support the underlying purpose of this task force, I would like to address this matter through a more direct and effective means. As Governor, I have tasked my Cabinet with analyzing every agency under their purview. I will work with my Cabinet Secretary and agency directors to ensure the safety of these Oklahomans and work with the authors of this legislation to implement any necessary changes discovered through our review of the agency.”

I find the veto to be disappointing. The governor says the safety of the elderly and disabled receiving in-home care is of utmost concern to him, and I believe him. But what his veto says is: (1) My cabinet members and agency directors have got this; (2) We will figure it out simply by analyzing each agency; (3) If we need to hear from people working in the field, or from advocates for the elderly and disabled, or from the people who receive services, we’ll ask them; (4) We will work with the authors of the legislation to implement any “necessary changes” discovered through “our” review.

Here we go again. This is practically Governor Mary Fallin, 2.0 who resisted legislatively initiated studies for the past eight years. One would think policymaking works best when the executive and legislative branches work together from the beginning and include input from the citizens affected. Protecting the frail and elderly on a large scale is not that simple. What’s wrong with letting knowledgeable, experienced, and interested citizens focus on the issue and make recommendations? They might see something the agency directors and cabinet members don’t see. Everyone knows there’s a new sheriff in town. If you don’t like what they recommend, then don’t do it.


Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1990. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.

2 thoughts on “In his first veto, Gov. Stitt rejects citizen involvement (Capitol Update)

  1. I’m the parent of a disabled adult son and we receive in-home services but it isn’t enough as he and my husband are getting older. There needs to be more long term options available to families along with addressing the waiting list that has over 5,000 people on it some of whom have been waiting in excess of 10 years which is tragic. I agree Mr. Lewis this sounds like Stitt’s predecessor – what she tried didn’t work so why are we still doing it?

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