En español | With the start of the 2011 Arizona legislative session, AARP Arizona’s Advocacy Network of volunteers are gearing up for another year of active work on issues important to seniors and people over 50.
“AARP priorities are designed to address issues that are important to our members and non-members alike,” said Steve Jennings, AARP Arizona Associate State Director of Advocacy. “Top on the list would be protecting older Arizonans and their families from state budget cuts that would negatively impact their health and economic security.”
This year will also see AARP Arizona working to assure the integrity of pension systems. “Public and private pension systems should include fair and sustainable financing,” said Jennings. “Retirees should be able to count on receiving the benefits they were promised when they paid into the system. AARP will work to thwart efforts to unfairly cut pensions.”
Utility issues are another area that AARP will be concentrating on this year. In particular, AARP will be involved in efforts to limit increases in utility rates, especially for those on fixed incomes. In addition, AARP will work to ensure consumer protections as utilities expand smart metering. “The costs of smart meters are high, and all the cost risks should not be on consumers,” added Jennings. “We will also strongly oppose any mandatory time-based pricing plans that would harm seniors and others who cannot afford to pay higher prices or cut back air conditioning on hot summer days. Smart meters should not result in reduced levels of consumer protections, especially related to the implementation of remote disconnection.”
Utility rate decoupling will be another issue on AARP’s advocacy platform, an issue that can be confusing for consumers. Decoupling means that utilities would earn the same amount even with reduced sales when consumers conserve energy. “Utility incentives for energy efficiency programs should be fair and reasonable and linked to a utility’s actual performance in reducing energy usage,” said Jennings. “Policymakers should ensure that ratepayers continue to see smaller utility bills if they consume less energy. We are concerned that decoupling could cause consumers to pay new surcharges, even as they try to lower their bills by conserving energy
Other issues AARP will be working on in 2011 include efforts to see that the state legislature improves its legislative transparency, including simplifying the process in which the public has timely access to amendments and proposals. “The public should not only have timely access to bills and amendments but should also be given adequate time to submit public comment into the legislative record on such proposals,” said Jennings.
AARP Arizona’s full list of advocacy priorities and platform can also be accessed on its Facebook page.
In addition, AARP Arizona is actively recruiting volunteers who would be interested in working on state and national advocacy issues. For more information about volunteering or about AARP Arizona, call toll free (866) 389-5649, Ext. 5163.