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Ramsey Favors Adding Picture on Drivers’ Licenses for Seniors

Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said Thursday in Clarksville he may pursue legislation to require citizens over age 60 to have a photograph on their driver’s license — a big wrinkle in the debate over the state’s new voter ID law.

Ramsey, on the first leg of his “Red Tape Road Trips” tour designed to hear concerns about government regulations, said he doesn’t understand any justification for allowing those citizens to go without a photo on their driver’s license. He wants to study the history of how that came to be.

While his meeting at a Clarksville real estate office Thursday addressed regulations, some unrelated questions arose, and one was about the state’s new law that requires voters to have a photo ID when they show up to vote.

The law goes into effect Jan. 1 and would first come into play in the state’s presidential primary March 6.

The question came from a man who recently moved to Tennessee from Iowa who was unaware the state had a new voter ID law. In telling the new Tennessean about the law, Ramsey said he didn’t know until recently about the exemption for people 60 and over allowing them not to have a photo on their driver’s license.

There are 126,000 seniors in Tennessee who are over age 60 without photos on their driver’s licenses.

“I don’t see a policy reason for not doing that (having photos on licenses),” Ramsey said after the meeting. “I think that would solve the problem with voter ID. So, yes, we are looking back on that, at least to see what the policy was that did it and if there is reason not to do it.

“Maybe there is some logical reason why if you’re over age 60 you don’t have to have your picture on your driver’s license, but for the life of me I can’t figure it out.”

Ramsey said he assumes it would take legislation to change the policy.

“We’re looking into the history behind that and why it happened and why there’s over 100,000 citizens that don’t have it,” he said.

“When we began doing the research, I think there was an amendment to the bill that exempted them. So there would have to be an amendment to the statute to put them back in, too. I don’t know many senior citizens that would object to that, not the ones I know.”

Ramsey said he was surprised to learn about the exemption. It was unclear exactly when Ramsey was saying the exemption came to his attention, whether it was before or after the Legislature passed the photo ID bill.

“I don’t think that anybody really realized — I know I didn’t — that over age 60 you do not have to have your picture on a driver’s license. Now why shouldn’t you? Give me a policy reason why you shouldn’t. I can’t think of one,” he said.

Ramsey also told the audience of about 35 people that photo IDs can be obtained free under the new law, but he added “that’s another whole problem, standing in line at DMV.”

When he answered the question from the former Iowan, Ramsey said, “One thing I discovered through this whole process — we didn’t know this and have done some research on it lately — if you’re a senior citizen, you’re not required to have a picture on your photo ID. I didn’t even know that. So what was the policy, the reason we did that? We’ve kind of traced it back.

“Those of us who are lifelong Tennesseans remember when you didn’t used to have a photo on your driver’s license. I think in 1988, we figured out, when the law went into effect, when you first got the plastic card you carry in your back pocket that’s got your picture on it. For some reason, some amendment got attached to the bill that exempted senior citizens. What’s the policy reason for that? So that needs to be changed, too.”

Ramsey said he received “several compliments” from people in the audience after the meeting about the new photo ID law.

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Press Releases

Governor’s Aging Summit Convened

Press Release from Gov. Bill Haslam, June 21, 2011:

Focusing on potential partnerships among public, private and non-profit sectors to better serve seniors

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today challenged key stakeholders from across the state to be creative in finding ways to better serve seniors through partnerships among public, private and non-profit sectors during his opening remarks at the Governor’s Summit on Aging held at Lipscomb University.

“This is an opportunity to bring experts from across the state and nation together to devote time to discuss ways that we can better care for our seniors,” Haslam said. “We all are served well when Tennesseans are able to age with dignity and are healthy and independent. Our senior citizens are valuable assets who contribute a wealth of knowledge and a variety of skills to our communities.”

Lipscomb University’s School of TranformAging and the Nelson and Sue Andrews Institute for Civic Leadership collaborated with the governor’s office to plan, facilitate and host the invitation-only event.

“One of the School of TransformAging’s primary objectives is to be a neutral convener of conversations of significance regarding aging issues, while also educating the aging services workforce of the future. The summit provides an opportunity for this very important issue to be discussed at the highest level by leaders who have the ability to make an impact in developing and implementing solutions,” said Charla Long, creator of the School of TransformAging.

“We are honored to work with Governor Haslam’s administration to bring together this unique gathering of leaders from public, private and non-profit sectors to collaborate on this important issue,” said Linda Peek Schacht, executive director of the Andrews Institute.

Other notable speakers at the summit include Maddy Dychtwald, author and co-founder of Age Wave, the nation’s foremost thought leader on population aging and its profound business, social, health care, financial, workforce and cultural implications and Sandy Markwood, CEO of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging. A variety of experts are also participating in panel discussions to share lessons learned and best practices including representatives from the NCB Capital Impact, Village to Village Network, Green House Project, Congregational Health Network, FiftyForward, SilverSneakers and ITNAmerica.

During the afternoon, participants will be placed into working groups to discuss specific topics such as accessibility to care, improvement of healthy aging, a seamless delivery system, communication and public awareness. At the end of the day, working groups will share ideas that emerged from their conversations.

Tennessee First Lady Crissy Haslam is scheduled to deliver closing remarks with a call to action for the organizations that support and serve seniors and directly to seniors themselves to get out in their communities across the state and volunteer. Whether it is devoting their time to activities such as reading with children, mentoring young students and teachers or supporting parents, there are a number of gifts that senior citizens offer that can have an immediate impact.

About Lipscomb’s School of TransformAging: Leading Transformation for Aging Services

The School of TransformAging at Lipscomb University is designed to address the issues facing seniors and the individuals who serve them by finding lasting and meaningful solutions to America’s aging crisis. This crisis requires everyone to think differently about aging services and demands innovative leadership from all sectors, including education. The School of TranformAging offers a multidisciplinary graduate certificate program and master’s program in aging services leadership.

About the Andrews Institute for Civic Leadership

Founded in October 2010 to build on the legacy of Nashville leader Nelson Andrews, the Nelson and Sue Andrews Institute for Civic Leadership engages emerging and current leaders in programs to create thriving communities. The institute promotes and showcases government, business and not-for-profit leaders working together for the common good. Its programs provide for the study and practice of this collaborative civic leadership model — a model built on the idea that great communities are intentional, not accidental.