2019 Legislature Wraps Up and Older North Dakotans Win Big
AARP North Dakota advocacy volunteers came out in force during the state legislative session that wrapped up in late April. The results proved just how effective our members’ voices can be.
Volunteer phone calls, e-mails, postcards, and conversations with legislators helped pass bills supporting caregivers, taxpayers and anyone who wants to live in their home and community for as long as possible.
The first win for older North Dakotans was passage of the CARE Act. This bill requires hospitals to provide caregivers with information and demonstrate the medical tasks they’ll be asked to perform at home once their family member is discharged from the hospital.
AARP has been working to pass the CARE Act for several sessions. This time, we worked hard with the North Dakota Hospital Association to draft a compromise both sides agree will help hospitals and caregivers work better together. We’ll be working with hospitals over the next few years implementing ideas and best practices so they can deliver on the guarantees provided in the CARE Act.
Our heads were spinning at times over all the twists and turns made in the bill to reduce the state income tax on Social Security benefits. It started as a full repeal of income tax on Social Security benefits affecting about 50,000 older North Dakotans. That bill passed both chambers in dramatic fashion as both the House and the Senate flipped “Do Not Pass” recommendations made by the committees that heard the bill. Flipping committee recommendations is a rarity, and to do it in both chambers with the same bill is almost unheard of.
Credit goes to the hundreds of AARP members who contacted their senators and representatives. Those messages overwhelmed legislators, who ultimately represented the wishes of their constituents. The Senate vote prompted leadership to take a second look at the bill, so they broke protocol and sent the bill to the appropriations committee with a $20.8 million price tag. After weeks of negotiations, the bill came out of a conference committee with a compromise and a $7.4 million cost to the state.
The law will impact about 30,000 North Dakotans. It gives a full tax break on Social Security income for individuals whose adjusted gross income is less than $50,000, and to married filers (jointly) who make less than $100,000. It’s a big win for the people who need it most.
At AARP we hear a lot from North Dakotans who want to remain in their own homes and communities as they age. And prior to this session, North Dakota was one of the least friendly states for older people who need help to stay at home for as long as safely possible. The programs that help people stay at home are called home- and community-based services and come in many forms.
This legislature got on board in providing resources to improve those services across the state. One bill that passed reduces eligibility requirements so more people can receive state assistance to pay for home services. Another initiative targets patients and caregivers before they go home and provides them with information about help available to them. That is an exciting effort because we hear from so many people who end up in an institution because they were not aware of the alternatives.
AARP North Dakota also worked to pass bills to create more access to affordable housing, to allow banks to report suspected fraud, and to increase access to telemedicine.
AARP advocacy volunteers drove the successes during the 2019 North Dakota Legislature. Thank you for your interest and active participation.
JOIN OUR WEEKLY LEGISLATIVE UPDATE BY PHONE
Join a weekly conference call during the 2019 legislative session to stay up-to-date on what is happening at the legislature and how you can help us advocate for issues important to North Dakotans 50 and older. The conference call will be held every Friday at 2 p.m. Central Time. Join by phone by dialing toll free at 1-866-215-3402 and enter pass code 4815771.
HOW TO MAKE IT OFFICIAL
Below are two ways you can sign up to become an official AARP North Dakota Legislative Volunteer:
AARP ND Legislative Volunteers Brochure - a brochure outlining the AARP ND Legislative Volunteer Program and the registration form to sign up.
Or, email Advocacy Director Mike Chaussee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CAREGIVING - AN AARP NORTH DAKOTA LEGISLATIVE PRIORITY
On Aug. 1, 2019 the North Dakota CARE Act becomes law. As we continue to work for the more than 62,100 family caregivers across the state we want to make sure resources are available to those who need them. Here are some helpful websites for research you want to conduct about family caregivers:
- AARP Caregiving site
- National Alliance for Caregiving
- AARP Public Policy Institute updates us on CARE Act implementation across the country.
RESOURCES FOR AARP ADVOCATES
North Dakota State Legislature Website - There is a tremendous amount of access provided by the state. You can access bios and contact information for your legislators (There's even a clever search tool if you don't know who they are.), search and read every bill, and download a map of meeting rooms.
If you really want to dig deep into the legislative site, click here for a detailed tutorial to discover how each legislator voted on a bill.
Here's a civics class refresher on how a bill becomes a law - This is specific to North Dakota where we are unique in that every bill is guaranteed three public exposures. First, every bill is required to have a public hearing in committee. Then, every bill receives a public committee vote before heading to the floor for a public vote of the assembly. If it passes, the bill goes through the same procedure in the other chamber.
Thinking about testifying before a committee? You should! Legislators tell us all the time they appreciate hearing from real people, not just paid lobbyists. So, it's vital that AARP members and other constituents tell legislators about how bills will affect them. Here are some tips about How to Testify Before a ND Legislative Committee PDF
Knowing AARP's stance on an issue can be helpful when you're preparing to make a call, write a letter, or gathering evidence for your testimony. The following links to AARP resources can help you in your preparation. (Note: This list will change from time to time.)
Long Term Scorecard - This is a comprehensive comparison between states on how they perform when it comes to long-term care for older adults, people with disabilities and caregivers. North Dakota ranks 37th overall (out of 51). The detailed breakout is interesting as the Scorecard measures states in about 25 different areas. North Dakota ranks as low as 50 and as high as two, depending on the indicator. Make sure to click on North Dakota on the map on the front page to see the detailed analysis.
2015 North Dakota Legislative Volunteer Handbook - Handbook of tips and tools to help our advocates be successful.