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Senators Express Support for AARP Agenda

March 19, 2007 — Senators pledged a broad range of support for issues affecting seniors Monday at a meeting with the V.I. chapter of the AARP, including establishment of a council on aging.
"We may not agree on precisely what needs to be done, but we all agree something needs to be done," said Senate President Usie Richards.
Several senators met with AARP members at Gertrude's Monday morning to listen to their concerns and discuss policy priorities and legislation.
Everyone at the breakfast received a report detailing the AARP's V.I. legislative agenda. Major priorities include setting up a territorial council on aging, establishing mandatory universal health insurance, ensuring the solvency of the V.I. Government Employees' Retirement System (GERS) and anti-age-discrimination legislation. The AARP also calls for letting pensioners who work get both Social Security payments and unemployment pay instead of reducing the unemployment pay, as under current law.
The 10 or so senators in attendance each spoke in support of the agenda and of the importance of taking proper care of the elderly. The meeting was originally scheduled to go on all day, but had to be shortened because of a scheduled confirmation hearing on St. Thomas in the afternoon.
When he addressed the gathering, Richards outlined the majority coalition's legislative agenda. He touched on health care, the homeless, education, roads and other pressing issues in the community. He also pointed to legislation on the 27th Legislature's agenda for each issue rather than focusing solely on issues specific to seniors. Later Richards expressed his support for the basic goals behind the AARP legislative agenda, as did all of the senators at the meeting.
"What about those who don't have someone to take care of them when they get old?" Sen. Carlton Dowe asked the crowd. "We have a responsibility to take care of our own, take care of those who need help."
The senator elicited applause when he proposed a new facility for seniors.
"What's wrong with a nice senior center, with amenities, a pool, a comfortable place for assisted living," Dowe said, adding that he was looking into a parcel of land on St. Thomas that might serve the purpose.
Another senator bemoaned the nature of senior-care facilities.
"I feel embarrassed sometimes at how we keep our seniors cooped up," said Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson, noting that isolation and loneliness are serious problems for the elderly. "I hope I won't be in such a situation. I would like to be in a comfortable setting when the time comes, a place where, if someone visits, they can spend the night."
A colleague pledged support for one of the AARP's top priorities.
"You have many senators in the 27th legislature who will support the establishment of a council on aging," said Sen. Louis Hill. "This is a subject we have been working on since the 26th legislature. Setting up a council outside of government and independent is a very good idea."
Addressing concerns about the solvency of the GERS, Hill mentioned recent legislation authorizing the system to take on $600 million in new bond debt to finance looming shortfalls. Critics of the bond idea argue that funding the pension fund shortfall with new debt does not ultimately solve the problem. Hill speculated that a modified proposal, with a smaller bond issue, might be in the offing.
Sen. Ronald Russell also indicated a pending change in the GERS bond legislation.
"The GERS bill we passed that created so much division recently was recommended by the GERS board," Russell said. "I hope in the next legislature that we can work with the GERS and AARP toward the goal of modifying the measure to make a better, more perfect bill."
The senate president's comments also included talk of his commitment to focusing government on service.
"I am not going to go before the AARP of the V.I. and tell you one thing, then go before another group and say something else," Richards said. "I believe this is the first time in a long time you have had a legislative body so responsive here in the Virgin Islands."
Before the meeting adjourned, Richards apologized for cutting the meeting short.
"As Senate President, I take full responsibility," he said. "We knew far enough ahead to prevent a conflict. But we have confirmation hearings in St. Thomas in the afternoon, and we owe it to the governor to act on his nominations."
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March 19, 2007 -- Senators pledged a broad range of support for issues affecting seniors Monday at a meeting with the V.I. chapter of the AARP, including establishment of a council on aging.
"We may not agree on precisely what needs to be done, but we all agree something needs to be done," said Senate President Usie Richards.
Several senators met with AARP members at Gertrude's Monday morning to listen to their concerns and discuss policy priorities and legislation.
Everyone at the breakfast received a report detailing the AARP's V.I. legislative agenda. Major priorities include setting up a territorial council on aging, establishing mandatory universal health insurance, ensuring the solvency of the V.I. Government Employees' Retirement System (GERS) and anti-age-discrimination legislation. The AARP also calls for letting pensioners who work get both Social Security payments and unemployment pay instead of reducing the unemployment pay, as under current law.
The 10 or so senators in attendance each spoke in support of the agenda and of the importance of taking proper care of the elderly. The meeting was originally scheduled to go on all day, but had to be shortened because of a scheduled confirmation hearing on St. Thomas in the afternoon.
When he addressed the gathering, Richards outlined the majority coalition's legislative agenda. He touched on health care, the homeless, education, roads and other pressing issues in the community. He also pointed to legislation on the 27th Legislature's agenda for each issue rather than focusing solely on issues specific to seniors. Later Richards expressed his support for the basic goals behind the AARP legislative agenda, as did all of the senators at the meeting.
"What about those who don't have someone to take care of them when they get old?" Sen. Carlton Dowe asked the crowd. "We have a responsibility to take care of our own, take care of those who need help."
The senator elicited applause when he proposed a new facility for seniors.
"What's wrong with a nice senior center, with amenities, a pool, a comfortable place for assisted living," Dowe said, adding that he was looking into a parcel of land on St. Thomas that might serve the purpose.
Another senator bemoaned the nature of senior-care facilities.
"I feel embarrassed sometimes at how we keep our seniors cooped up," said Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson, noting that isolation and loneliness are serious problems for the elderly. "I hope I won't be in such a situation. I would like to be in a comfortable setting when the time comes, a place where, if someone visits, they can spend the night."
A colleague pledged support for one of the AARP's top priorities.
"You have many senators in the 27th legislature who will support the establishment of a council on aging," said Sen. Louis Hill. "This is a subject we have been working on since the 26th legislature. Setting up a council outside of government and independent is a very good idea."
Addressing concerns about the solvency of the GERS, Hill mentioned recent legislation authorizing the system to take on $600 million in new bond debt to finance looming shortfalls. Critics of the bond idea argue that funding the pension fund shortfall with new debt does not ultimately solve the problem. Hill speculated that a modified proposal, with a smaller bond issue, might be in the offing.
Sen. Ronald Russell also indicated a pending change in the GERS bond legislation.
"The GERS bill we passed that created so much division recently was recommended by the GERS board," Russell said. "I hope in the next legislature that we can work with the GERS and AARP toward the goal of modifying the measure to make a better, more perfect bill."
The senate president's comments also included talk of his commitment to focusing government on service.
"I am not going to go before the AARP of the V.I. and tell you one thing, then go before another group and say something else," Richards said. "I believe this is the first time in a long time you have had a legislative body so responsive here in the Virgin Islands."
Before the meeting adjourned, Richards apologized for cutting the meeting short.
"As Senate President, I take full responsibility," he said. "We knew far enough ahead to prevent a conflict. But we have confirmation hearings in St. Thomas in the afternoon, and we owe it to the governor to act on his nominations."
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.