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October 6, 2012

Silver Haired Legislators pinpoint issues

It is easy enough to complain about government—it is another to play an active role and help change things for the better. Obviously the first step is ensuring you participate in the process by voting for people that represent the qualities and views you’d like to see reflected in the policies and laws enacted by elected officials.

Beyond that, you can play an even bigger part in the process by participating with advocacy organizations that work to improve public policy in specific areas. That’s exactly what the Oklahoma Silver Haired Legislature does.  Members from every part of the state work to identify areas of special concern to Oklahoma seniors—issues impacting their safety, ability to remain independent and health—and then bring their top five proposals to the attention of lawmakers in the hopes they’ll be considered when the State Legislature convenes in February.

The Silver Haired Legislature met this past week at the State Capitol, and voted for the top five issues they’d like to see addressed in the 2013 Legislative Session. The top proposal would require nursing homes to have 24-hour video monitoring of all common areas and rooms used by residents, with the exception of bathing areas and bathrooms. Residents and their legal representatives could opt out of having video monitoring in their rooms.  Members of the Silver Haired Legislature say too many older Oklahomans are injured without explanation, while others have been physically and sexually assaulted by unknown attackers. They believe video monitoring would protect vulnerable residents who cannot defend themselves and help bring their abusers to justice.

The second proposal would require all long term care facilities to have the ability to provide an alternative source of electricity in case their principal source goes down, which can happen in Oklahoma as a result of severe weather.

Other proposals include requiring pharmacies to include the purpose of each medication on the prescription label to help prevent accidental misuse of medications. The Silver Haired Legislature has also called for legislation limiting charges by high cost lending operations, which can sometimes assess annual percentage rates of 391 percent or higher. They also want legislation helping ensure better visitation rights for grandparents.

 For the next few months, the Silver Haired Legislature will begin meeting with members of the State Legislature to educate them about their issues and identify members to carry their proposals in the Legislative session.  Oklahoma’s Silver Alert law, which helps identify missing seniors in the same way the Amber Alert law works to locate missing children, is an example of legislation advocated by their organization.

Not every proposal made by this association will ultimately be enacted as new law—but members of the Silver Haired Legislature should be applauded for taking the time and effort to research important public policy issues and help spotlight them on behalf of thousands of Oklahoma seniors across the state.

As always, I welcome your comments on state government.  Please feel free to contact me by writing to Senator Charles Wyrick at the State Capitol, Room 521, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105; call me at (405) 521-5561.

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