The 15th Silver-Haired Legislature had a productive but lengthy legislative meeting last week in the House Chambers of our Capitol.
Seventy members were able to attend the session, which occurs every two years. Representatives from Galveston and Harris counties were John Giovanini, Steve Coycault, Mari Okabayashi, A.G. Hinojosa, “Polo” Lacoste, Ken Nesmith and myself.
The opportunity to discuss and debate the 100 resolutions written by more than 100 members regarding the issues brought to them by residents across this great state is taken very seriously.
Our job finds fruition and brings satisfaction to us for the labors of gathering material regarding the frustrations, needs and wishes of Texans older than the age of 60 and those with handicaps — which is an oxymoron since those older than 60 most assuredly have some sort of handicap, therefore we are self-serving times two.
During our swearing-in ceremonies we pledge to do our best for the seniors of this state. We attend senior meetings, town meetings, faith-based groups, men’s and women’s clubs and any other functions in which we might hear of frustrations regarding seniors being overlooked, neglected or abused.
Often, laws already are in place to help and we remind people the first contact they need to make is with their own state legislator’s chief of staff. It is so very important for the public to realize the importance of staff in communications, since too many people think if they don’t speak to their legislator personally the message will not be conveyed. They are wrong.
Every message, including the caller’s name and information, are presented to the legislators. Ever think about how they seem to know what we need and what the biggest demands are? Well, think about how many times a message can go to several of our state legislators and the extra weight it carries if heard from sources all across Texas.
Those issues heard from our peers that are not covered by existing laws are the ones we hope to bring to the attention and interest of the Texas Legislature and the governor.
As we debated the submitted resolutions, the majority of committee members sometimes did not feel the substance was great enough for our time limitations and not a high enough priority to take to the State Legislature. Having said that, 76 items passed the final vote.
Those 76 were diverse — from education to insurance, taxes to health care. We sought to do credit to the requests of our own peers back home. Sometimes debates were heated, even heartbreaking, but we finished the tasks and stayed the course.
Of those that passed I will list a few to offer an idea of the topics: requiring geriatric training as part of medical education; restoring the Texas Department on Aging; establishing a study group to develop guidelines for transition of care; raising the allowance for Medicaid patients who are residents in nursing homes; requesting a statutory basic will form for Texas seniors; limiting interest to those seeking loans in payday loan shops; and increasing the funding for Meals on Wheels.
It is still up to us to remind those seeking state office that we must have consideration on concerns here on the coast — windstorm and flood insurance and conservation are huge.
And, while perhaps limited to our area in many respects, windstorm and flood affect everyone as the prices go up on all insurance when we have a disaster.
Help us be messengers.
Betty Streckfuss is a part-time resident of Jamaica Beach. She is speaker pro tem with the Texas Silver-Haired Legislature and a retired registered nurse.