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AARP Disappointed that legislation creating a Department on Aging fails by one vote

One senator charges that her colleagues are taking care of trees, animals, car dealerships this year, but not senior citizens

NASHVILLE, TN – Legislation that would give seniors a Cabinet-level voice in Tennessee government failed by one vote in a Senate Committee on Tuesday, likely killing the effort to create a Department on Aging for the year and leaving services for older residents scattered throughout nearly two dozen agencies.

“We are very disappointed, especially because passage would have required only one more senator’s vote,” said AARP Tennessee Advocacy Director Patrick Willard. To move out of the Senate Government Operations Committee, the bill (SB3209) needed five “aye” votes, but only four lawmakers – Sens. Tim Barnes, Ophelia Ford, Thelma Harper and Reginald Tate – voted for it.

Four other senators – Dewayne Bunch, Rusty Crowe, Jack Johnson and Chairman Bo Watson – declined to vote the bill up or down, saying “pass” when it was their turn. The other senator on the nine-member committee, Brian Kelsey, was absent when the vote was taken. The committee is not expected to meet again before the Legislature adjourns for the year.

“Just think how much easier it would be for older Tennesseans dealing with the floods this month if they had one central place to go for information and services,’’ Willard said after the vote. “Instead, they have to deal with multiple agencies to get a single question answered.’’

Senator Lowe Finney
Senator Lowe Finney

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Lowe Finney, D-Jackson, would reconstitute the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability as a department directly responsible to the governor. It would not immediately consolidate the 100-plus programs now spread among 23 agencies, but would first require a review by lawmakers, state officials and experts in the field of aging.

Finney said most other constituencies – including children, veterans and farmers – have a Cabinet-level representative talking directly with the governor about their priorities. “One group of people is missing: someone who represents senior citizens,’’ he said.

Harper was more blunt, saying that lawmakers already voted for legislation protecting trees, animals and even car dealerships, but not seniors. “We’re putting things before people,” she said.

About the AARP

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. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to either political campaigns or candidates. We produce AARP The Magazine, the definitive voice for 50+ Americans and the world’s largest-circulation magazine with over 35.5 million readers; AARP Bulletin, the go-to news source for AARP’s nearly 40 million members and Americans 50+; AARP Segunda Juventud, the only bilingual U.S. publication dedicated exclusively to the 50+ Hispanic community; and our website, AARP.org. 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 Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

For more about AARP Tennessee, please visit www.aarp.org/tn, www.facebook.com/aarptennessee or www.twitter.com/aarptn.



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