February 11 is Crossover in the Virginia General Assembly, when bills that have passed their initial chamber cross over for consideration by the other house. We’ve been working daily with legislators, partners, and volunteers to effect positive change for all Virginians as we age.
Here’s what we’ve been working on!
RETIREMENT SECURITY: HB775 – Work & Save Study – Del. Hala Ayala
A secure retirement is out of reach for more than 1.2 million Virginians who do not have access to a retirement savings plan at work. The ability to save for retirement out of a worker’s regular paycheck is vital – workers are 15 times more likely to save for retirement when they have access to a workplace retirement plan. AARP Virginia proposed a Work & Save retirement plan several years ago, and we’re still working to get something enacted. In 2020, we have collaborated with VA529 and Del. Hala Ayala to pass a study bill that will include:
· An examination of potential retirement savings options for self-employed individuals, part-time employees, and full-time employees whose employers do not offer a retirement savings plan;
· The level of interest by Virginia employers in participating in a voluntary state-sponsored private retirement option;
· The likely costs to start up such a plan and an estimate of time to reach self-sufficiency and potential funding options;
· The experience of other states which have implemented or are implementing a state-sponsored private retirement solution for employers and employees; and
· The appropriate state agency and structure to implement the solution.
A bill to enact the plan will be re-introduced in the 2021 session, once the study is completed this year. Stay tuned for more! We’ll be asking you to contact your senators in the next few weeks, asking them to support HB775.
PRESCRIPTION DRUG PRICING: HJ52 – Prescription Drug Affordability Board Study – Del. Elizabeth Guzman
AARP is committed to lowering prescription drug prices, and introduced a Prescription Drug Price Transparency bill (HB876 – Del. Subramanyam) in the 2020 session. The House Health, Welfare, & Institutions subcommittee on Health Professions continued the bill to 2021. We also worked with Del. Shelly Simonds on HB691, which would establish a Prescription Drug Affordability Board. The same committee continued her bill to 2021. The reason given was that Del. Elizabeth Guzman had submitted a resolution (HJ52) to request the Secretary of Health and Human Resources to convene a work group to examine the pharmaceutical distribution payment system in the commonwealth, and innovative solutions to address the cost of prescription drugs to Virginians at the point of sale.
In hopes that the resolution would pass, the subcommittee wanted AARP Virginia, Del. Subramanyam, and Del. Simonds to have the chance to participate in the work group, and fill in some of the pieces they felt were missing in our legislation. HJ52 has passed the House, so we’re one step closer to our goal. We’ll know more about what is needed to set up an effective Prescription Drug Affordability Board and how we can work to gain transparency throughout the prescription drug supply chain, once the work group has completed its task. That information would then inform the Affordability Board’s regulatory process.
PREDATORY LENDING: HB789/SB421 – Consumer Lending – Del. Lamont Bagby/Sen. Mamie Locke
In Virginia, payday and title lenders charge APRs that can top 300%! Virginia has some of the weakest consumer protections in the country. Comprehensive reform, like what is called for in HB789 and SB421, is proven to work in other states while still allowing widespread access to credit. These reforms level the playing field for responsible lenders and would put more than $100 million back into the pockets of Virginia families every year! These bills include:
· Affordable payments (not a debt trap);
· Enough time to repay (more than two weeks, but no endless debt);
· Fair prices (for borrowers and lenders); and
· Widespread access to credit (with better outcomes).
AARP Virginia is proud to be a member of VaPERL (Virginia Partnership to Encourage Responsible Lending) which is leading this fight. We are encouraged by the support we have seen in both the House and Senate so far and we’ll be asking for your support in contacting your legislators in the next few weeks asking them to continue to vote YES on HB789 and SB421!
PREDATORY LENDING: HB10/SB77 – Student Loan Servicers – Del. Marcus Simon/Sen. Janet Howell
Student loan debt is not an area where many people expect AARP to show up. When older borrowers’ Social Security payments are garnished for defaulting on their student loans (yes – that is a thing!), and when people are increasingly unable to save for retirement due to the burden of student loan debt, it only makes sense for us to lend our voice to this fight. The cost to attend Virginia’s four-year public institutions has become increasingly unaffordable, with average tuition and fees increasing by 74% over the last decade. In half that time student debt rose 47% for Virginians 60-plus. Families are facing difficult decisions that severely affect their long-term financial stability. This takes into account people who have put their kids and grandkids through school, those who have debt from graduate school, and those who may still have debt from their undergraduate degrees. It’s time for a change.
AARP Virginia is working with Virginia 21 and VaPERL to bring that change to the commonwealth. Student loan servicers are largely unregulated in Virginia. HB10 and SB77 aim to bring some relief by offering students fair and sorely needed protections from predatory loan practices and by allowing the commonwealth oversight of these servicers. They’ve passed the House and Senate and now cross over to complete their journey through the General Assembly. We’ll be asking you to contact your legislators in the next few weeks asking them to vote YES on HB10 and SB77!
GUARDIANSHIP: HB331 – Definition of Incapacitated Person – Del. Patrick Hope and SB585 – Supported Decision Making – Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant
Determining that our loved ones are no longer able to care for themselves is difficult, to say the least. Navigating a confusing guardianship system only adds to the stress. There were fifteen bills introduced in the 2020 General Assembly dealing with various aspects of the guardianship process and two of those gained AARP’s support and have cleared their first hurdles to passage, HB331 and SB585. These bills aim to ensure that individuals under guardianship are cared for in a way that keeps them at the center of the conversation.
HB331 amends the current state code to prevent a diagnosis alone as the only evidence for someone to be declared incapacitated. This is in addition to existing code language that specifies that poor judgment displayed by an individual does not mean they should be declared incapacitated.
HB585 provides that if individuals placed under guardianship or conservatorship are between 17 ½ and 21 years of age and have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), the guardian appointed to represent them shall review the IEP and include the results of the review in the report required to be submitted to the court. It also requires the Superintendent of Public Instruction to make available transitional materials prepared by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services that include information about powers of attorney and guardianship to be provided to students and parents during the student's annual IEP meeting.
The bill also requires guardians to consider whether a less restrictive alternative than guardianship is available to provide assistance to the individual. The consideration of a less restrictive alternative is at the heart of AARP’s policy on guardianship.
SB585 requires the appointed guardians and conservators be informed by the court of their duties and specifies that incapacitated individuals should be encouraged to participate in decisions, act on their own behalf, and develop or maintain the capacity to manage their own personal affairs if they retain any decision-making rights.
Finally, the bill requires the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to convene a group of stakeholders, to include AARP, to study the use of supported decision-making agreements in the commonwealth. Guardianship is complicated and we look forward to participating in this important discussion.
FINANCIAL EXPLOITATION: SB391 – Required reporting of financial exploitation by financial institutions – Sen. Jeremy McPike
Every day we hear stories of older adults being taken advantage of and losing money – lots of it – in the process. AARP Virginia takes this issue very seriously. We support Sen. McPike’s bill, SB391, which would require financial institutions to report any instance that has caused them to refuse or delay a transaction or refuse to disburse funds based on a good faith belief that the transaction or disbursement may involve financial exploitation of an adult. The bill was amended to allow five business days for reporting of these incidents. AARP Virginia will ask that the bill be changed to its original language, which requires reporting immediately upon suspicion of financial exploitation. In a world where transactions can be made online in seconds, five days is too long to wait. We’ll be sending an alert with a list of legislators to contact to ask them to consider this change. Keep an eye out for it!
Not Crossing Over in 2020
Unfortunately, not all of the bills we introduced or supported will see the other side this session, but we’ll be back in 2021 to continue to fight on these important issues!
PRESCRIPTION DRUG PRICING:
· HB876 – Prescription Drug Pricing Transparency – Del. Suhas Subramanyam (cont’d to 2021)
· HB691 – Prescription Drug Affordability Board – Del. Shelly Simonds (cont’d to 2021)
SUPPORTING FAMILY CAREGIVERS:
· HB361 – Family Caregiver Income Tax Credit – Del. Sam Rasoul (tabled in subcommittee)
· HB862 – Communication between close relatives and friends of incapacitated persons – Del. Mark Levine (failed to report from subcommittee)
· HB1321 – Supported Decision Making – Del. Kay Kory (cont’d to 2021)
· HJ127 – Guardianship Study – Del. Danica Roem (tabled in subcommittee)
This story is provided by AARP Virginia. Visit the AARP Virginia page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.
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