Last Modified: Saturday, June 30, 2012 9:55 PM
An effort by the Jindal administration to move the state Office of Elderly Affairs to the state Department of Health and Hospitals failed during the recently completed regular session of the state Legislature.
But that hasn’t stopped the governor from maneuvering some of the duties to DHH’s oversight.
Jindal’s plan to shift the Office of Elderly Affairs from the Governor’s Office stirred controversy from the outset. The governor fired Office of Elderly Affairs Executive Director Martha Manuel after she testified before the House Appropriations Committee that the move would not be in the best interest of the state’s elderly.
The proposal also drew criticism from Council on Aging officials from around the state. Many worried that once under DHH’s auspices, the office would be subject to the type of draconian budget cuts that always seem to fall on health care and higher education in Louisiana.
Ultimately, the House, in a 49-47 vote, defeated Senate Bill 762, which would have transferred the adult protection services of the Office of Elderly Affairs to DHH. Elderly Protective Services employees investigate charges that people age 60 or older are being neglected or abused.
But that’s not the end of the story.
In a slick move, the governor transferred funding and staffing for elderly protective services to DHH.
Spokesmen for the governor said the move consolidated adult and elderly protective services and eliminated duplication of services.
But legislators and officials of Council on Aging offices around the state said the budgetary move ignored the will of the people.
‘‘At this point,’’ wrote Shannon Broussard, director of the Cajun Area Council on Aging in Lafayette, ‘‘the Jindal Administration is sending a clear message — the democratic process is a ruse, a process that only works if the current administration wants it to work.’’
She noted that House Resolution by state Rep. Joe Harrison, R-Houma, urged Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater to transfer the $2.59 million funding for the Office of Elderly Affairs protection and its 22 employees from DHH to Elderly Affairs.
‘‘The Legislature and the people of this state spoke loud and clear in its desire to have Elderly Protective Service to remain with Elderly Affairs,’’ said state Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe.
So far that message has fallen on deaf ears in the Jindal administration.
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Dennis Spears, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.