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Opinion

March 7, 2011

AARP Oklahoma Releases 2011 Legislative Priorities

CHICKASHA — AARP Oklahoma today announced its 2011 state legislative agenda by reaffirming its mission to fight for issues that are important to older Oklahomans.

Barney Allen, a member of the AARP Oklahoma Volunteer Executive Council from Ardmore, said the association will focus its efforts during the 2011 State Legislative Session on three areas:

· Funding of essential services for Oklahoma’s most frail and vulnerable citizens, including expanding access to home and community-based services and funding for senior nutrition programs;

· Preventing any attempts to roll back regulatory oversight for long-term care facilities;

· Fighting for Oklahomans on utility rate increases, regulatory issues and consumer protections at the Capitol and the Corporation Commission.

Executive Council Member Rich Carothers from Oklahoma City said AARP is supporting five bills related to long-term care, home and community-based services, health and safety in 2011.

“If enacted, these bills will provide greater oversight for long-term care administrators, allow older Oklahomans to choose where they want to live, provide counseling about long-term care options, require generators in assisted living center, connect Alzheimer’s patients and their families to additional support and direct local law enforcement to transport vulnerable adults who are suffering from abuse, neglect, financial neglect or exploitation,” Carothers said.

Those bills are:

· HB 1282 (Dank) -  would move “certified nursing facility administrators,” “assisted living facility administrators,” and “adult day center administrators” under  the  Oklahoma State Board of Examiners for Long-Term Care Administrators.

· HB 1554 (Kern) – would establish the Options Counseling for Long-term Care Program. The bill requires the program to provide individuals or their representatives with long-term care options in consultation by phone or in person.  

· HB 2002 (Dorman) -  would require the availability of alternative power, such as generators, in assisted living centers that provide services to 50 or more individuals

· SB 167 (Ivester) - would establish a statewide Alzheimer’s Information and Referral System to connect persons with Alzheimer’s disease, their families and caregivers to local case management, support services and information on the disease.

· SB 492 (Burrage) -  would allow DHS to petition the district court for an order directing local law enforcement to transport an incapacitated person or vulnerable adult  who is suffering from abuse, neglect, self-neglect, financial neglect or exploitation for care, treatment and residential placement.

Joe Ann Vermillion, a member of the AARP Volunteer Executive Council from McAlester, said AARP is also supporting House Bill 2135 by Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee. This proposal would allow local communities to pass ordinances regulating smoking.

 “Oklahoma is one of only two states that prohibit communities from adopting any tobacco-related ordinance stronger than state law,” Vermillion said. “Statewide, smoking is the leading preventable cause of death. It’s time to give local cities and towns the right to pass smoke-free laws.”

 Finally, AARP said it is supporting two measures, HB 1316 by Rep. Danny Morgan, D-Prague, and SB 146 by Sen. Jerry Ellis, D-Valliant, that would make it a crime to send or read text messages while driving.

 “AARP has long advocated for safe driving through our nationally-recognized Driver’s Safety course,” said John Edwards, an AARP Executive Council member from Shawnee. “Experts agree that we can avoid many needless accidents and fatalities by banning texting while driving.”

 AARP members from across the state converged on the State Capitol Thursday to visit with lawmakers and share their priorities for the upcoming year.

 “Today we are calling on lawmakers to pass these eight specific bills that we believe will make life better for older Oklahomans,” said Carol Orr, a member of the AARP Oklahoma Executive Council from Blackwell, noting that there are more than 400,000 AARP members in Oklahoma.

 For more information visit www.aarp.org/ok

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