Press Releases

New Lobbyist for AARP Tennesee

Press Release from Tennessee Chapter of AARP, March 16, 2011:

Shelley Courington brings key lobbying, volunteer experience to role

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – AARP Tennessee’s new advocacy director, Shelley Courington, hasn’t had a chance to settle into her position because she took the job in the middle of the legislative session. That hasn’t fazed Courington, who dove right in and began advocating on behalf of older Tennesseans on a variety of issues lawmakers are considering.

Courington, who previously served as executive director of the Campaign for a Healthy and Responsible Tennessee (CHART) and as a grassroots advocacy director for the American Cancer Society, comes to AARP with an impressive background in nonprofit campaign management and lobbying.

In her new role, Courington is working with AARP volunteers across the state to create and implement advocacy campaigns and develop strategies on the state and federal levels to protect and advance the interests of 50+ Tennesseans and their families.

Courington, a graduate of the University of Montevallo in Alabama, also worked for the state and Metro Nashville Health departments, where she helped build coalitions and educate and train volunteers and partners on anti-smoking efforts.

“Shelley already has become a valuable and valued member of our team,” said AARP Tennessee State Director Rebecca Kelly. “Her relationships with key opinion leaders, her understanding of grassroots volunteers and her ability to bring people together will help AARP progress on our policy agenda and help older Tennesseans live their best lives.”

Courington said she is “thrilled to join AARP to advocate on behalf of older Tennesseans on issues that will allow them to become healthier, more financially secure and live in communities that are accessible and welcoming to people of all ages and abilities.”

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole. We produce AARP The Magazine, published bimonthly; AARP Bulletin, our monthly newspaper; AARP Segunda Juventud, our bimonthly magazine in Spanish and English; NRTA Live & Learn, our quarterly newsletter for 50+ educators; and our website, AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rice and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Liberty and Justice News Transparency and Elections

Democrats Can’t Slow Voter ID Bill in Senate

Tennesseans who lack proper photo identification are a few short votes away from having to bring a new form of identification with them the next time they hit up the ballot box.

A bill passed Monday in the Senate requires that in order to cast a ballot, a prospective voter must produce identification bearing his or her name, address, and photograph of the voter. According to Senate Bill 16‘s summary, a voter’s social security card, credit card bearing the applicant’s signature, or other document bearing the applicant’s signature, would no longer be adequate identification.

Acceptable forms of ID under the bill include a valid Tennessee driver license or ID card issued by a state or the federal government, a passport or a U.S. military ID.

Despite futile cries from Democrats that mandating photo identification creates additional bureaucratic barriers to voting for the poor and older voters, the majority party — with the help of one Democrat — outmuscled SB16’s detractors and sent it on its way to the House of Representatives.

Prior to the bill’s passage, opponents tried to attach six amendments to it ranging from adding a Medicaid ID to the list of six eligible identifications that would be acceptable, allow the local Election Commission office to take a snapshot of the photoless voter and offering to dole out state IDs for free. All the amendments were shot down.

“Republicans did not want our input, even when that input was to make sure that senior citizens could have the right to vote,” said Sen. Andy Berke, a Chattanooga Democrat. Dresden Sen. Roy Herron called the bill the equivalent to “a modern-day poll tax.”

Nonsense, said Murfreesboro GOP Sen. Bill Ketron, who described the bill as nothing more than an effort to secure the integrity of the system to ensure that people who can’t legally vote don’t. Ketron noted that the bill has contingencies for the elderly, poor and those who refuse to be pictured for religious reasons to vote without a photo ID.

The lone Senate Democrat who voted for the legislation was Nashville Sen. Dougas Henry.

A nationwide advocate for seniors weighed in via a press release shortly before the Senate was called to order, offering the view that the lawmakers ought to be trying to make voting easier, not more difficult.

“AARP has concerns about any legislation that creates obstacles for eligible voters, particularly those who are older, poor and geographically isolated,” said AARP Tennessee State Director Rebecca Kelly.

The measure now awaits a hearing in the House, where it is sponsored by GOP Caucus chairwoman Debra Maggart.


Candidates Say They’d Streamline Senior Services

The two leading candidates for governor tried to win over elder voters in Nashville Friday with messages of making services more accessible to them and their care givers, but both offered different approaches.

Democratic candidate Mike McWherter told seniors at the AARP “Conversation with Tennessee’s Next Governor” event that the state needs a cabinet-level officer and a full department devoted to coordinating senior services. Calling it “one-stop shopping,” he said its cost would be minimal, especially if it consolidates and reorganizes services that already exist.

“Frankly, I think consolidating a lot of these services may create some efficiencies that literally  pay for themselves,” he said, adding that the one agency could refer people to the services that they need.

Bill Haslam, a Republican mayor of Knoxville, told the same group he can’t promise that the state has the money to make any major changes right now, but said there are other creative ways to streamline services so seniors and their caregivers have an easier time navigating through the system.

“Everyone understands we’re in tight budget times, so we need to work smarter to solve these same issues,” he said.

While Haslam didn’t offer specifics, he did point to the development of a 311 phone number in Knoxville for people to call with questions about local government services and said the same approach might work with senior services statewide.

Press Releases

AARP Rep Joining State Comptroller’s ‘Sunshine’ Committee for Open Govt.

Press Release from AARP Tennessee, July 2, 2010:

Governor signs bill adding AARP representative to Open Government Committee

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — AARP will help bring “Sunshine” into Tennessee by joining a group that advises government agencies on provisions of the law requiring them to conduct business publicly.

Gov. Phil Bredesen signed legislation this week adding an AARP representative to the Tennessee Advisory Committee on Open Government. The committee works under the Comptroller’s Office of Open Records Counsel, which advises agencies on the state “Sunshine Law.” The law says in part that “the formation of public policy and decisions is public business and shall not be conducted in secret.”

Frank Gibson, executive director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open government, said he was pleased that lawmakers agreed to add a representative of AARP, a non-partisan membership organization representing more than 600,000 50+ Tennesseans.

“Tennessee’s open records and public meetings laws were enacted to provide the transparency citizens need to participate in the operation of their government,” Gibson said. “It’s appropriate that the legislature recognized that by adding AARP to represent that public interest on the Advisory Committee.”

Comptroller Justin Wilson will choose someone for the four-year term from three names that will be submitted. “AARP believes it is important for all Tennesseans to see, hear, and understand the work of our elected officials. We are honored to join the League of Women Voters and Common Cause in representing the interests of citizens across this state on this important committee,” said AARP Tennessee Advocacy Director Patrick Willard.

The legislation, sponsored by Republican Rep. Curry Todd of Collierville and Republican Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro, was approved unanimously last month. It also adds representatives from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Police Chiefs Association and the Sheriffs Association, expanding the committee to 14 members.

Press Releases

AARP: Lawmakers Approve Senior-Abuse Protection Legislation

Press Release from the Tennessee Chapter of AARP, June, 3, 2010:

Effort to create a Cabinet-level Department on Aging fails

NASHVILLE – Tennessee lawmakers this year adopted legislation to protect seniors from abuse and scams, but stopped short of consolidating dozens of programs for the elderly scattered across 23 state departments and agencies.

As the 2010 legislative session wound toward a close, lawmakers unanimously approved a bill seeking to protect seniors and others from abuse by health care providers. The Senate sent the governor the Elderly and Disabled Adults Protection Act (SB2297/HB2284) on a 27-0 vote on Thursday.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jim Kyle and Rep. Dennis Ferguson, requires licensed health care professionals and health care facilities to conduct a registry check on national and state adult abuse and sexual offender registries before hiring a person who provides direct patient care.

While the measure was not as expansive as the bill initially sought by the administration in 2009, AARP supported it as an additional means of providing a safe environment for seniors in nursing homes and other facilities. “Protection of our most vulnerable adults must be a priority,” AARP Tennessee Advocacy Director Patrick Willard said. “This bill provides an extra degree of protection for those who cannot defend themselves.”

Lawmakers voted to protect consumers in a wide variety of ways in 2010, including bills to prevent unwanted phone solicitations and following national models for guardianship and conservatorship laws.

A bill sought by several senior and disability groups that would create a Department of Aging, however, stalled in the Senate Government Operations Committee. The bill followed the recommendations of an administration study as the first step toward consolidating programs for seniors. The legislation had the support of the Bredesen administration, senior groups including AARP and the Alzheimer’s Association, and disability groups including the Tennessee Disability Coalition. Senators stopped the bill saying they were awaiting the report of a joint study committee.

Other bills adopted by the legislature affecting seniors include:

SB 444/HB 608 by Rep. Mike Stewart and Sen. Doug Overbey to incorporate provisions of the Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act in Tennessee law. The legislation makes clear the intent for the uniform law to serve as a supplement to the provisions of the Tennessee Adult Protection Act to provide a basis for determining jurisdiction between this state and other states or foreign countries in any cases involving the protection of an adult by the courts of different states or countries. This bill’s effective date is January 1, 2011, and is applicable to proceedings that begin on or after January 1, 2011.

SB 2501/HB 2503 by Rep. Gary Moore and Sen. Joe Haynes which creates an offense for a person to conceal or misrepresent a telephone number. Violations are punishable as a Class A misdemeanor with a fine not to exceed $2,500 for each violation.

SB 2832/HB 2778 by Rep. Jim Hackworth and Sen. Andy Berke to allow family members intervention when an adult is abused or neglected. Establishes that family members may obtain court orders to intervene when a relative adult is being intentionally abused, neglected, or exploited. The legislation creates a process for a relative to petition the court for an order of protection, for a period of time not to exceed 120 days, for an adult who is unable to protect him or herself from abuse, neglect, exploitation, or misappropriation of real or personal property. It is a Class A misdemeanor for an individual to violate the newly created order of protection.

SB 2903/HB 2941 by Rep. Jim Hackworth and Sen. Randy McNally to create a missing senior citizen alert program for persons with dementia or physical impairment. The bill requires local law enforcement agencies to verify a person is missing, enter the information in to the National Crime Information Center, identify and maintain additional local resources that can be utilized, such as reserve units and K-9 units, and requires law enforcement to send alerts to designated media at their discretion.

SB 2570/HB 3265 by Rep. Phillip Johnson and Sen. Mike Faulk to allow online driver safety course for seniors to qualify for insurance premium discounts subject to the approval of the Department of Safety.

SB 3528/HB 3310 by Sen. Doug Overbey and Rep. Joe Armstrong provides funds through a hospital coverage fee to offset TennCare cuts that would affect seniors. The legislation was supported by AARP because of the impact of the proposed cuts on Tennessee hospitals and rehabilitation, occupational and physical therapy services.