The social services redesign bill has a unanimous “Do Pass” recommendation, and has been referred to the Senate Appropriations committee.
The bill, however, now includes several amendments that incorporate many of the changes that had been requested by county officials across the state, including more time to implement the switch from 44 service centers serving 53 counties to 19 zones instead. The amendments also specified that the zone directors are to be locally employed, and that zone boards are to be more supervisory than advisory.
Williams County officials were among those pushing for changes to Senate Bill 2124, and had been among those attending legislative hearings about the matter. A list of 45 key concerns presented during testimony was drawn in part from a draft prepared by Williams County Communications officer, Lindsey Harriman. Human Resources Director Helen Askim was also among those testifying.
The state’s takeover of social services has relieved about $165 million in county property taxes statewide, but has prompted concerns from local officials about local control, and timeframes that are too tight.
The proposed time frame was one year, which wouldn’t have allowed much time for pilots to come together before the zones themselves had to be finalized, county officials have said. That would mean forming zones without the benefit of any learning from the pilots.
Budgeting processes for counties also don’t start until July, which would likely mean the program could face loose ends in the transition.
There were also concerns related to the fact that while a majority of employees in any given zone would remain local, county commissions would be in a strictly advisory role.
Social service directors, meanwhile, had wanted to see an appeals process in the legislation for any employees who are transitioned from county employment to state, including applicable grievance procedures in the event of forced relocations.