With 23 new members, 20 of them of the "Baby Boomer" generation, the attitude of the Silver Haired Legislature is changing, Pratt County representative Jerry Keene reported to county commissioners on Monday.
The Silver Haired Legislature develops bills and resolutions which are presented to the Kansas Legislature and governor as recommendations of state policy. Each county is allowed a representative, and Wyandotte, Johnson, Shawnee and Sedgwick counties are allowed five additional representatives. They met Oct. 1-3 at the Capitol building in Topeka.
"Who would have thought the senior citizens of Kansas would approve of medical marijuana becoming legal (54-12 on the final vote) or that seniors would have allowed the state to take away free hunting and fishing for seniors over 65 without a protest of any kind being sent to the state legislators?" Keene wrote in the Kiowa County Signal, where he is the managing editor.
The senior advocates considered research that shows benefits of patient use of marijuana: relief from chronic pain, relief from nausea associated with chemotherapy and stabilization of appetite for those who suffer chronic loss of appetite because of medical treatments. Additional benefits are the slowing of the progression of two conditions common to senior citizens: Alzheimer's disease and glaucoma.
It was also noted that a distinction should be made between medical and non-medical uses of marijuana.
The SHL offered no opposition to a law passed in the last session of the Kansas Legislature that changed exemptions from hunting and fishing licenses in place since the 1960s. The exemption was raised to age 75, and after age 65, seniors can purchase a hunting or fishing license at half price ($9 for each) or a lifetime combination hunting and fishing license for $40.
Keene explained why Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism requested the change: it came down to financial considerations.
An estimated 33,000 Kansans over age 65 hunt and fish, according to information provided to the SHL. Sales of the senior pass are expected to bring in more than $800,000 in the short term and as much as $1.4 million in the long run. In addition, these funds will generate between $2.4 and $4.2 million additional dollars in federal matching dollars.
The SHL also recommended more funding for food programs, Keene told the commissioners. Rising costs of food have resulted in downgrading at senior meal centers, he said.
The group is also working for a solution to inadequate Medicare coverage for dental, hearing loss and eye care. Seniors who cannot afford to pay may go without care.
"It's an interesting process," Keene said of the Silver Haired Legislature.
Eighty-seven representatives were present for the state session. A district meeting will be held Nov. 6 in Pratt.