Tom Duggan is voice for elderly

Staff reporter

To make changes, the state Legislature has to follow a process.

One of the steps is to know what constituents want.

So, what is the Legislature discussion these days regarding senior citizens?

According to Tom Duggan of Tampa, Marion County Silver-Haired Legislator, current issues are amendments to the recently-adopted Grandparents As Parents bill and cost-of-living increases for recipients of KPERS.

Duggan said the current Grandparents As Parents bill was developed and approved as a means to provide financial assistance to grandparents who are raising their grandchildren.

The current bill requires grandparents to adopt their grandchildren in order to receive assistance.

"We want the bill amended so grandparents can be designated as primary care providers (instead of formal adoption of the children) and receive assistance," Duggan said.

The group also is working toward increasing the income requirements to be 150 percent of the national poverty level or less instead of the current requirement of 130 percent.

Another issue that the silver-haired legislators support is a cost-of-living increase for KPERS (Kansas Public Employees Retirement System) recipients since there currently is not a provision for an increase due to inflation.

What is the silver-haired legislature?

Each Kansas county has a delegate. Marion County is a member of District 3 which includes 15 other counties.

Duggan said his role is to take issues or concerns of Marion County senior citizens first to the district level. From there, three or four causes are selected to be presented to the state Legislature.

A district meeting was held in April where the two pertinent issues were discussed. In October there will be a statewide meeting in Topeka, Duggan said, where final decisions are made regarding which topics or programs the group is going to support.

Every other year the delegates meet in May to elect state officers.

"Another part of my job is to bring this information from the district and state to the county level," Duggan said, which he presents at the monthly meetings of Senior Citizens of Marion County.

The Kansas Silver-Haired Legislature (SHL) is a unicameral (single) legislature with 125 representatives. All delegates are 60 years of age and older, and are elected from their county residence. Wyandotte, Johnson, Shawnee, and Sedgwick counties have five additional delegates.

The legislature provides an educational experience in the political process and provides an opportunity to identify priority concerns of Kansas senior citizens.

The SHL develops bills and resolutions which are presented to the Kansas Legislature and governor as recommendations for state policy.

The organization also provides a way for more than 412,000 seniors to become involved.

SHL delegates are charged with being an advocate for the legislation by the SHL, testify at hearings on SHL legislation, meet with seniors in their county and/or district regarding legislation affecting the elderly, and attend SHL meetings.

Donations and volunteer help support SHL.

Elections are conducted every two years by Area Agencies on Aging.