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Funding Essential Senior Services at the Top of AARP’s Oklahoma Legislative Agenda

As Oklahoma legislators prepare to convene for the legislative session Feb. 7, AARP says it will work to make sure essential senior services, including senior nutrition and home and community-based services, are adequately funded.

“We fight for the issues that are important to our members,” says AARP Oklahoma Associate State Director Sean Voskuhl. “Protecting Oklahoma’s must frail and vulnerable citizens has been and will continue to be a top priority for us in the upcoming legislative session.”

Voskuhl noted last year the association and its volunteers played an integral part in restoring $5 million of funding for senior nutrition programs in the state after budget cuts eliminated more than 700,000 hot meals for the homebound and at senior nutrition sites.

According to estimates by the Oklahoma House of Representatives Fiscal Department, legislators will face a budget hole of approximately $565 million for FY 2012.

AARP also will support legislation that put the remainder of long-term care administrators under the purview of the Oklahoma State Board of Examiners for Long-Term Care Administrators.

“We will also work to prevent any attempts to roll-back regulatory oversight for long-term care facilities,” he said.

In 2010, AARP successfully backed four long-term care bills that are now law. Those laws now require the immediate report of rape in nursing homes, closed a loophole in the state’s nurse-aid registry that allowed those convicted of caretaker abuse to work in nursing facilities, made changes in the state’s nursing home incentive reimbursement program and expanded a cash and counseling program.

AARP volunteers from across the state will converge on the Capitol at the end of February to meet with lawmakers and discuss specific bills being considered by the Legislature.

“Our volunteers make a real difference in the success of our legislative agenda and in the lives of thousands of older Oklahomans,” Voskuhl said. “AARP serves as the voice of many seniors on important issues that affect their everyday lives.”

AARP also will continue its work on utility issues at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission and monitor proposed rate increases and telecommunication issues.

Two other measures that have the support of the association, which has more than 400,000 members in the Sooner state include banning texting while driving and a proposal that would allow communities to enact ordinances outlawing smoking in the workplace.

Oklahoma is one of only two states in the nation that prohibit communities from adopting any ordinance on tobacco that is stronger than state law, according to Smoke Free Oklahoma.

The 2011 Legislative Session runs through May.

If you are interested in helping AARP Oklahoma advocate on behalf of this issue or other important issues, contact the state office about becoming an advocacy volunteer at ok@aarp.org.

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