As you may be aware, I have long been an advocate for aging issues and improving the lives of seniors in Connecticut.
Outside of the legislature, I work as an elder law attorney, helping seniors navigate the sometimes confusing world of health and retirement benefits. And, in the General Assembly, I serve as the ranking senator of the Aging Committee where I am focused on crafting new laws or changing outdated laws that affect seniors living throughout our state.
With one-third of our state’s population of baby boomer age and soon to be going into retirement, we must seriously consider how to achieve improvements for our aging population from a legislative standpoint. Last year, in January 2011, the Aging Committee was elevated from a “select” committee to a “full” committee, meaning that it was given additional power to put forth legislative proposals. Currently consisting of 12 legislators, the committee considers all matters relating to seniors.
During this year’s legislative session, the committee recommended that 23 bills be considered before the full legislature. While many of these were sent to other committees or simply never came up for another vote, we will likely reconsider many of the proposals next year. Thanks to bipartisan support, the legislature did pass some important laws affecting seniors that I would like to share with you this week.
After first proposing the legislation in 2011, I am proud that “aging in place” will finally get the attention it deserves. Adopted this year, Special Act 12-6 created a task force that will study how our state can encourage “aging in place,” a movement that allows seniors to remain independent, safe and comfortable in their homes for as long as possible.
With 16 members, the task force will examine infrastructure and transportation improvements, zoning changes to encourage home care, improving nutrition programs and delivery options, strengthening fraud and abuse protections, expanding opportunities for home medical care, and tax incentives and other incentives for private insurance. If you would like to learn more about this movement, please visit the National Aging in Place Council website at www.ageinplace.org.
A second proposal was Senate Bill 143, which was designed to increase the income limit for participation in the Alzheimer’s Respite Care program. While the bill did not pass, the proposal was adopted into the state budget, increasing the annual income limit from $41,000 to $50,000. The increase will help families take care of their loved ones.
Last month, I was also invited to take part in a ceremony with the Governor to sign another bill into law that will help secure the rights of grandparents to visit their grandchildren. Public Act 12-137 changed how the petition process works. Grandparents will now have to identify specific information, such as the existence of a parent-like relationship and that the denial of visitation rights could harm the child. The law also requires a court to hold a hearing and grant the request if there is strong evidence of these conditions.
While I am proud of the legislation that we were able to pass this session, more must be done to help improve the lives of seniors in our state. As ranking senator of the Aging Committee, I will continue to advocate for these important issues, including increasing energy assistance, restoring funding for elderly nutrition programs and reducing the state tax on social security income. I encourage you to share your suggestions and input on how we can move our state forward together. As always, please feel free to contact me by calling 1-800-842-1421 or by emailing Kevin.Kelly@cga.ct.gov.