HARTFORD — State Representative Theresa Conroy (D-105) said enhancing the quality of life for Connecticut’s seniors will be a top priority for Democrats during the upcoming 2014 legislative session, which convenes Feb. 5.
Conroy joined legislative leaders at a State Capitol press conference announcing new initiatives for seniors, including a new jobs re-employment program, an aging-in-place initiative, additional protections from door-to-door solicitors and disclosure requirements for alternative electricity suppliers.
“Our 2014 legislative agenda has a strong focus on senior issues,” Conroy said in a press release. “We recently held a forum in Seymour on livable communities. This agenda is the next step — taking ideas and making them public policy.”
Below is information from a press release issued by Conroy’s office on the agenda.
Being able to continue to live at home can often require certain changes, Conroy and other lawmakers are proposing policies that support livable communities, including:
-Establishing a grant program to promote home and service-based support systems, such as transportation, meals, and maintenance to allow individuals to stay in their homes.
-Providing funding to retrofit and update homes to accommodate seniors’ changing lifestyles.
-Creating incentives for transit oriented development projects targeting senior populations, which may include in-law apartments, home modifications and home share.
-Offering towns the opportunity to be recognized as “Aging in Place Ready Communities” by meeting certain requirements.
Other proposals include:
Reemployment of older workers: With older workers more likely to be unemployed longer than younger individuals, barriers such as skillset deficiencies, lack of job search skills or a negative perception about older workers often must be overcome. Based on recommendations of the Program Review Committee proposals would:
-Require the Connecticut Employment and Training Commission (CETC) to coordinate a web-based hiring campaign for older workers.
-Prohibit employers from publishing, in print or on the internet, a job vacancy that lists current employment as a required qualification or states unemployed candidates will not be considered.
-Enhance and improve existing on-the-job training opportunities.
-Coordinate existing job search, education and job training resources into a centralized database that is easily accessible.
Consumer and privacy protections: Seniors are particularly vulnerable to being taken advantage of by unscrupulous businesses and high pressure or misleading sales tactics. These common sense proposals provide transparency, protection and accountability.
Electric suppliers: With electric market competition has come an increase in high pressure sales tactics, misleading information and a lack of overall transparency about rate comparisons and increases, and renewal policies and processes. These proposals will arm all consumers with the valuable information they need to make the best choices.
-Require additional, prominently printed, information on electric bills, including notification of rate increases, date of auto-renewal, and any cancellation fees.
-Print standard offer rate on every bill next to the applicable private supplier rate.
-Require online bills to conspicuously display the same information as required on printed bills.
-Direct PURA to establish an online marketplace where customers can easily compare all private electric supplier offers and purchase directly through the marketplace.
Door-to-Door Solicitation by Utilities: Seniors are especially vulnerable when it comes to the often high-pressure tactics of door-to-door salespeople who often target areas with high senior populations. The proposals would:
-Require all offers made by door-to-door salespeople be in writing,
-Require that the written offer prominently display a phone number to speak with a customer service representative.
-Give the consumer the right to cancel the contract within 30 days of activation for any reason, without penalty, and prominently notify the consumer of this right on the written offer.
Do Not Call List: Unwanted, unsolicited phone intrusions are on the rise and seniors are often the targets of phone scams. There is currently little incentive for businesses to comply with the law. Our proposals tighten up loopholes in the current law and increase penalties for violators.
-Raise the stakes of non-compliance by markedly increasing penalties.
-Increase consumers’ awareness of how and where to make complaints of violations by displaying complaint procedures onphone bills.
-Include text messaging in the current Do Not Call law.
Prescription Drug Discounts and Privacy of Medical Records: Several large pharmacies now offer prescription drug discount programs, which can be attractive to seniors facing high prescription drug costs. Most consumers don’t realize that when they sign up for these programs they are often unknowingly signing away their privacy rights to their entire medical record, allowing the pharmacy access to a customer’s health history and the right to sell a customer’s personal health information for marketing and other purposes. This proposal would ensure that if a customer chooses to participate in these discount programs, that they understand what they are signing away when they do so.
-Require pharmacies to clearly define in layman’s terms the privacy rights a consumer is giving away by enrolling in the program on webpages and other promotional materials.
-Require larger font and greater prominence of these terms on pharmacy websites and other promotional materials as well as an explicit sign-off by the consumer in the form of a check off box specific to privacy rights prior to final enrollment in the program.