What issues facing North Dakota are most important to you? AARP North Dakota will be at the capitol every day once the North Dakota Legislature convenes on January 8, 2013. We expect to weigh in on several issues important to North Dakotans 50 and older and their families.
If you are interested in joining a group of volunteers to help advocate for issues important to North Dakota’s 50-plus population, please contact Josh Askvig at the AARP North Dakota office via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 701-355-3642.
We are building a network of volunteers and AARP members in every legislative district in the state to be Legislative Buddies. We need interested individuals who can access a North Dakota legislator, who supports AARP’s positions on state issues, and is willing to make a specific ask of the legislator on behalf of AARP.
Here’s a quick rundown of some of AARP’s priority issues in 2013.
More Options for North Dakotans to Live Safely at Home
North Dakota consistently ranks near the bottom among states for providing options for the services and supports seniors need to live in their own homes. In fact, the 2011 Long-term Care Scorecard, ranked North Dakota 41st out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia in “choice of setting or provider.” Further, North Dakota ranked last among the states for the percent of Medicaid spending going to home- and community-based services for older people and adults with physical disabilities.
AARP supports state policies that deliver long-term care services and supports to promote consumer independence and choice. We will be supporting the state application for the Balanced Incentive Payment Program (BIPP). This grant could provide additional resources to move North Dakota from the bottom of the pack on choice of setting or providers.
Guardianship for Vulnerable Adults
North Dakota has studied the need for increased guardianship services for vulnerable adults and seniors repeatedly over the last 20 years. In 2011, the legislature passed a bill calling for yet another study. The national expert who conducted the study made a number of recommendations to improve guardianship. Two key recommendations came from the study: providing consistency in the appointment and handling of guardianships, and ensuring adequate guardianship coverage.
AARP supports state laws that encourage responsible and effective guardianship by requiring adequate training and mandating certification of guardians, as well as providing clear procedures when wards or the guardian move to or has ties to other jurisdictions. State guardianship laws should protect seniors’ due process while adequately funding public guardianship programs.
Property Tax Relief
North Dakota currently provides property tax relief through two avenues: a school mill levy reduction buy down and a homestead property tax credit. The 2013 North Dakota Legislature is expected to consider changes to property tax relief measures.
Property tax is the single most burdensome tax for many low-income and older individuals. AARP supports efforts to broaden public school financing with state general revenues to lessen local property taxes on individuals (often the biggest property tax collector). Property tax relief should also be provided in an equitable manner to low- and moderate-income homeowners and renters, like strengthening the homestead tax credit.
During previous legislative sessions there have been efforts to undermine or gut state and teacher pensions in favor of less reliable 401(K) type plans that may not provide reliable long-term benefits.
AARP supports ensuring that state and local government workers continue to have access to defined benefit plans. Additionally, any modifications or changes to current plans should not harm current beneficiaries and employees and ensure retirement security for future retirees.
Improving Health Care Access and Affordability
Under the Affordable Care Act, states will have the option – starting in 2014 – to expand Medicaid coverage to all individuals with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level.
AARP encourages states to take advantage of the enhanced federal funding available for this expansion. In North Dakota it would help provide health coverage for up to 30,000 additional individuals in our state.