The Silver Haired Legislature, made up of 152 members, each over 60 years of age, and representing all 46 of South Carolina’s counties, met in session in Columbia on September 15, 16, and 17.
Three resolutions were adopted to be presented to the coming session of the South Carolina General Assembly for consideration in 2010. They call for: (1) Adoption of licensing of non-medical in-home service providers, including criminal background checks; (2) Additional funding for in-home and community-based services; and (3) Mandatory minimum penalties for persons guilty of abuse, neglect, or exploitation of vulnerable adults ( as already exists when the victim is a child ).
Many other topics were advanced, and will be suggested to the legislators, but these 3 will have the most emphasis.
Two South Carolina legislators, the Lieutenant Governor, a D.C. lobbyist, and an AARP representative spoke during the sessions. Representative Bill Sandifer, chair of the House Labor and Economic Development committees, commended the Silver Hairs for being less rowdy than the actual House members. He discussed South Carolina’s need to move from commercial coal usage to nuclear, and possibly wind and/or solar. He pointed out that wind turbines in the ocean can only withstand a category # 2 hurricane, and that solar does not provide a steady source of power. On the other hand, the average nuclear plant takes more than 10 years to build, and can cost roughly $15 billion. He stated that South Carolina must improve its economic climate, promote further development, and greatly improve its educational system.
He said that the South Carolina House has passed: (1) Spending limits; (2) Preservation of the secret ballot; and (3) Increased cigarette tax; but that all have become stalled in the South Carolina Senate. He believes that real estate reassessments should all occur at the same time on a regularly scheduled basis, rather than at the time of each sale.
He further stated that there are few state funds for roads, unless some funds are moved from the General Fund ( such as the sales tax on auto sales ).
State Representative Denny Neilson pointed out that she was the Representative who introduced the bill to create the Silver Haired Legislature about 12 years ago. It was patterned after such laws in California and North Carolina. She recognized the successes of the Silver Haired Legislature, and assured the body that their voices were important to South Carolina legislators. She also mentioned that it was this group that pushed for the elimination of the sales tax on food in South Carolina until it finally became law. She listed: (1) Transportation; (2) Fraud; and (3) General Physical Care; as areas where she believes seniors need more attention.
Teresa Arnold, an employee of AARP, discussed the various health care proposals being discussed at the federal level, and explained why AARP supports most of the aspects of the proposals. She pointed out that AARP’s efforts are aimed at; (1) Reducing costs; (2) Reducing waste; and (3) Eliminating medical mistakes.
Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer talked about the importance of the Silver Haired Legislature to the South Carolina legislative process. He encouraged all senior citizens to stay involved, and to let their voices be heard. He discussed Medicare at some length, pointing out that annual Medicare expenditures in South Carolina were equal to the entire annual state budget. He also stated that 10 % of those on Medicare make up 30 % of Medicare expenditures in South Carolina. The average annual Medicare expenditure for that 10 % group is $ 44,220.
Laura Feldman is a representative of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, a non-partisan group based in Washington, D.C. She defined the word “politics” as being derived from “poly”, meaning “many types” and “tics” which means “blood suckers”. Her comments were spiced with much good humor, but she also brought a great deal of information to the meeting. She stated that Social Security “would not go broke”, but that as things stand now, there would be a 20 % shortfall by the year 2037. She also stated that Medicare is not sustainable as it now exists.
She also pointed out that seniors are not high on the priority list in the U. S. Congress, so it is important to figure out a way to effectively advance senior issues. Her mantra was; (1) Educate yourself; (2) Motivate yourself and others; and (3) Activate the decision-makers. Finally, she said that improved health care will cost money ( lots of it ) – so, the $ 64 question is from whence it will come ? She believes it is premature to be overly critical of any health care bill at this time, since there really is none. There is only a mish-mash of early preliminary drafts ( 3 from the U.S. House and 2 from the U.S. Senate).
All in all, it was a good, productive, and informative session. There were numerous questions and ideas, but few sure-fire answers. The group will meet again this coming spring to work on other legislative proposals involving seniors. If you have thoughts or ideas, send them to your Silver Haired representative, Sam Reed, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 3114 Baywood Drive, Johns Island 29455-6157.