CO-AGE sets 2017 legislative priorities
Published 9:00 pm Monday, September 5, 2016
COLUMBUS — The Coalition of Advocates for Georgia’s Elderly (CO-AGE) gathered on July 14 in Macon to hear 10 issues presented for consideration as priorities for the next legislative session. The issues were many and the scope of the issues was broad. They had a record voter turnout with hundreds of votes cast!
After receiving hundreds of votes statewide by democratic process, CO-AGE has chosen, in addition to its perennial budget request of funding for Home and Community Based Services (HCBS), another important budget request of Funding for Transportation Services and two strong legislative issues: Family Care Act and Oral Health Care for Seniors. The Abuser Registry to Prevent Abuse is a carryover issue from 2016.
Transportation services for older Georgians has always been a major topic in Georgia. In an effort to proactively address this topic, CO-AGE members chose this important budget ask of $10 million for transportation services. The request emphasizes the huge need for creative and flexible transportation options for seniors who can no longer drive. A closer look at the budget priorities chosen reveal that the Family Care Act would enable people to use their earned sick time to care for loved ones. Workers who currently have access to paid sick days through their employer could use those days for the illness or injury of a child, spouse or parent. The Oral Health Care for Seniors priority was chosen because legislation for less restrictive dental hygiene practice acts in private practice and expanded safety-net settings would allow greater access to the public at large for preventative and therapeutic dental hygiene services; thus lowering the risk of older Georgians having potentially deadly oral health problems. Finally, the carryover issue from 2016, the Abuser Registry to Prevent Abuse, took a huge step with the passage of House Bill 1037, also known as the CNA Registry Bill. Both Senator Renee Unterman and Representative Sharon Cooper committed to sub-committees in each of the committees they chair to look at this issue in more detail and develop potential legislation in 2017.
Carolyn Lipscomb, chair of the River Valley Area Agency on Aging Advisory Council and citizen of Crisp County, stated, “Seniors in our state have contributed to their communities for many years. Now is the time when we, the community, can return the favor. These programs all save lives as well as money for the taxpayers of Georgia. I look forward to working with our local General Assembly delegation to move these issues forward during the 2017 legislative session.”
The River Valley Regional Commission/Area Agency on Aging is a community development agency serving 16 Georgia counties of Clay, Crisp, Chattahoochee-Cusseta, Dooly, Georgetown-Quitman, Harris, Macon, Marion, Muscogee, Randolph, Talbot, Taylor, Sumter, Schley, Macon and Webster. As the designated Area Agency on Aging for these 16 counties, the AAA coordinates service delivery to seniors and persons with disabilities.