AARP unveils 2023 agenda and a corps of trained volunteers to help get it passed
Congratulations to Zayne Smith for her next step in AARP.

Zayne Smith AARP ART
'They aren't just here for the free trip to Tallahassee.'

They’re back.

AARP Florida will use upward of 100 member volunteers throughout the 2023 Legislative Session to meet with elected officials. It’s the first time the association will bring its volunteer members to the Capitol since the pandemic.

But unlike past volunteers who have made the trek to the Capitol, these AARP volunteers have completed about eight hours of education and training, learning the ins and outs of the issues, why AARP has taken the positions it has, and how to speak with elected officials.

And that makes those volunteers even more effective than before.

“They aren’t just here for the free trip to Tallahassee,” AARP Director of Advocacy Zayne Smith told Florida Politics Monday. “These folks are going to be able to engage on the issues.”

Smith said the volunteers will be in the Capitol throughout the 12-week regular Legislative Session. They also will be appearing at local and municipal meetings, she said.

The commitment is borne out of frustration, according to Smith. “People are tired of feeling like their voices are being ignored in Tallahassee.”

AARP has outlined a substantive 2023 legislative agenda that includes issues spanning three broad categories: health security, consumer protections and livable communities.

Of chief concern in the health security category is nursing home staffing requirements.

“As we have seen in past years, we anticipate further attempts by the nursing home industry to slash patient care and cut high-quality nursing staffing in Florida,” AARP State Director Jeff Johnson said in a prepared release. “AARP is prepared to show the state Legislature why it is imperative to keep high-quality, safe care in our nursing homes and why residents deserve to feel valued.”

AARP expects the nursing home lobby to take another swipe at staffing requirements and to push lawmakers to allow nursing homes that do not meet staffing requirements to continue to accept residents, Smith said. While the Legislature agreed last year to reduce the number of certified nursing hours, an attempt to eliminate the moratorium on new residents was stripped from the final bill that passed.

In addition to resurrecting the moratorium on admissions Smith expects Florida’s nursing home lobby to try to circumvent new federal nursing home staffing requirements that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is expected to publish in the coming weeks.

The Florida Health Care Association will finalize its legislative agenda at the end of the month, association spokesperson Kristen Knapp told Florida Politics in a statement. Knapp said the increased Medicaid reimbursement lawmakers approved last year is helping the industry recover from the pandemic but acknowledged “workforce challenges and the effects of inflation are still making full recovery difficult.”

Health care isn’t the only issue for the group that lobbies on behalf of residents aged 50 and older.

Smith said AARP is one of the stakeholders at the table as the Legislature this year reviews Florida’s adult guardianship laws and what, if anything, needs to be done to improve the system. Smith said the interest in the law is driven by the Rebecca Fierle case.

Moreover, AARP also will be taking an active role in legislation that prevents people from being financially scammed, and points to a recent complaint filed by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody against Florida-based MV Realty.

According to the complaint filed by Moody’s Office, the company would provide homeowners $300 to $5,000 as a cash loan alternative in exchange for an agreement to use the company as an exclusive listing broker. MV Realty, according to the complaint, would then file a 40-year lien on the property that requires paying 3% of the value of the home to MV Realty, regardless of whether the company ever provides any real estate listing services.

Smith said 140,000 Florida homeowners signed contracts with MV Realty in 2017 and 2018 that have the language in the contracts. The goal is to pass legislation this year that would preclude that from occurring again.

In addition to having 100 trained volunteers this Session, Smith also works with Associate State Director of Advocacy Karen Murillo, Program Assistant Nick Mayor, and Laura Cantwell and Ivonne Fernandez, the associate state directors of livable communities and multicultural advocacy respectively.

Christine Jordan Sexton

Tallahassee-based health care reporter who focuses on health care policy and the politics behind it. Medicaid, health insurance, workers’ compensation, and business and professional regulation are just a few of the things that keep me busy.


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