Older Idahoans Benefit from Legislative Session

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

AARP Idaho is a non-profit, non-partisan organization representing more than 180,000 members across the state. We work with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to support legislation and issues that make Idaho a great place to live for everyone.

AARP Idaho State director Lupe Wissel

Earlier this year, during our annual AARP Idaho Day of Action at the Capitol, Governor Little told us ‘if you’re not at the table of public policy discussions there’s a good chance you’re on the menu. AARP advocates are at the table and that’s important.’

He’s right and throughout this past legislative session staff and volunteers worked diligently to advance legislation that would not only benefit those 50 and older but Idahoans of all ages. And while there are always winners and losers during the legislative session, there is no question Idaho’s older population benefited greatly.

For example, as the Idaho population continues to grow and home prices continue to rise, we fought for affordable housing options, sensible property tax solutions and fair rental policies to protect Idahoans living on a fixed income. We advocated for changes to the circuit breaker program to make sure those who did not qualify last year may qualify in future years. We supported House Bill 51 and more transparent property valuation notices. We also supported House Bill 238 which protects homeowners against unfair service agreement and predatory housing practices. We spoke in favor of House Bill 166 which allows private property owners the right to have an accessory dwelling unit on their property and earn additional income. We hear more than anything that Idahoans want to age in place with dignity. These measures allow that to happen and we’re proud to support initiatives and legislation that empower people to choose how they live as they age.

We advocated for the thousands of Idahoans and their families who rely on the workforce of direct care staff by urging the release of a report from the Office of Performance Evaluation titled The Sustainability of Idaho’s Direct Care Workforce. This report underscored the shortage of direct care workers in Idaho and needed to be made public so appropriate policy changes could be made.

We protected Idaho voters by vehemently opposing and ultimately defeating House Bill 205 which would have amended Idaho’s absentee voting requirements putting unnecessary restrictions how Idahoans could vote. Voting is the right of every citizen, and we should be focusing on increasing turnout instead of building barriers. Ultimately, the legislature agreed with us.

This year also brought reminders that when a measure is approved, our work is often just beginning. In 2018, Idaho voters overwhelming voted to expand Medicaid and protect those who couldn't afford health insurance. Some lawmakers wanted to take a step backward and repeal that effort. We disagreed and helped stall that effort. We will continue to protect Medicaid and help those who need it most.

For years we have discussed telehealth policies at all levels of government. This kind of care is crucial for an aging and rural Idaho population. That’s why we were so pleased our efforts helps pass the Virtual Care Access Act. This crucial legislation modernizes the Telehealth Access Act to the post-COVID health care system and provides the convenience and independence associated with virtual care. In addition, we successfully lobbied for the Uniform Electronic Will Act. This is an important legal tool for the home-bound and those with mobility issues.

What AARP members have to say about the issues of the day should, did and will continue to command the attention of the Idaho Legislature. This makes sense since the Idaho Department of Labor estimates 20% of the state’s population will be over the age of 65 by 2026. It’s also no secret that older Idahoans are the most powerful voting bloc in the state.

Whether it’s financial security, health care access and affordability or making Idaho communities more livable, we will continue to show up as a wise friend and fierce defender of Idahoans 50 and older. And even though the 2023 legislative session has ended we’re already starting to set the table for next year.

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