Inside The Senior Alliance: 2023 State Legislative Preview with Dave LaLumia & Katie Wendel (Ep 1.28)

Law books, scales of justice and a gavel a judge would use in the setting of a courtroom.

In this episode, Jason Maciejewski, CEO of The Senior Alliance, talks to Dave LaLumia, Executive Director of Area Agencies on Aging Association of Michigan (4AM), and Katie Wendel, Director of Planning and Advocacy at AAA 1-B and facilitator of the Silver Key Coalition. They discuss what might lie ahead in the upcoming Michigan Legislative session regarding older adults and aging policy. Learn about what committees are important in regard to older and disabled adults bills and or legislation, what committees are important for older adults and disabled adults, and funding for services. You can also find out about the Silver Key Coalition and the work they do for seniors as well as how those who advocate for seniors can get involved. Important information for the coming year!

Produced by The Senior Alliance and Blazing Kiss Media


Jason Maciejewski (00:00):

Welcome to Inside The Senior Alliance, a podcast exploring resources and issues in the field of aging. I’m Jason Maciejewski, CEO at the Senior Alliance, the Area Agency on Aging serving Western and Southern Wayne County. Joining me today is Dave LaLumia, Executive Director of the Area Agencies on Aging Association of Michigan, known by the acronym of 4AM, and Katie Wendel, Director of Planning and Advocacy at Area Agency on Aging 1B and the facilitator of the Silver Key Coalition, which we’ll get into in a little bit. Katie and Dave, welcome to the podcast.


Katie Wendel (00:30):

Thank you for having us, Jason.


Dave LaLumia (00:31):

Thank you. It’s nice to be here.


Jason Maciejewski (00:33):

Great. Thanks for joining us. On January 1st, 2023, we started a new legislative session here in Michigan, and with this episode, we really wanted to discuss what’s ahead, what to look out for regarding older adults and aging policy. So, Dave, what can our listeners and advocates out there expect from this new legislative session?


Dave LaLumia (00:54):

Well, thanks, Jason. And I think one of the striking things about this session is that leadership and control of both the House and the Senate have flipped from Republican control to Democratic control. So, we have some historic changes in both the House and the Senate. We have the first black Speaker of the House, Representative Joe Tate, and the first woman to be Senate Majority Leader, Winnie Brinks from Grand Rapids. So, we have many, many new changes, many new legislators, committee members, committee and subcommittee chairs, and it’s taken a while for the House and the Senate to get up and running, but committee assignments have been made now, and I think, everyone is ready to go.


Jason Maciejewski (01:37):

Yeah, and the state Senate did make a change to their committee lineup, no longer having a committee focused on seniors specifically, but rolling Veterans issues and senior issues into a different committee. But, the House has pretty much remained pretty similar to the committee lineup they had in the last legislative session. So when it comes to these committees in the 102nd state legislature, Katie, what committees do you feel are really important for older adults and people living with a disability to pay attention to in Lansing?


Katie Wendel (02:08):

Now, of course, we are always really focused on the appropriations committees in both the House and Senate because they’re responsible for the budgets that enable all of the programs that support older adults and people with disabilities in the state. So, the larger appropriations committees, there’s a subcommittee on Health and Human Services, and so we really focus in on that Health and Human Services subcommittee in the Senate that is chaired by Sylvia Santana. And in the House, it’ll be chaired by Representative Christine Morris. For other policy issues, we watch the Health Policy Committee in both the House and Senate closely. In the House, that’s chaired by Representative Rogers and in the Senate that is chaired by Senator Kevin Hertel. And then, as you mentioned, there’s been a change in the lineup on the Senate side. They no longer have a family seniors committee. Those functions are being wrapped up in a new committee that’s being chaired by Senator Jeff Irwin that’s being called the Housing and Human Services Committee. So, we’ll be paying close attention to that. But, the House is maintaining a family, children and seniors committee that they’ve had in years past, and that’s chaired by Representative Stephanie Young


Jason Maciejewski (03:19):

And we’re fortunate here in southeast Michigan with Area Agency on Aging 1B, ourselves at AAA1C, and the Detroit Area Agency on Aging, we’ve got a number of legislators in key positions. You mentioned Representative Young who’s got a district that spans parts of both DAAA and The Senior Alliance Service area; Speaker Tate from the City of Detroit; and you mentioned Senator Irwin, who’s from your service area and 1B as well. So, we’re fortunate that we have a lot of members in key positions on these committees for the new legislative session. We shift over to thinking about the topics that are going to come up in this legislative session. Dave, what should our listeners and aging advocates watch for in the coming year in terms of policy issues?


Dave LaLumia (04:01):

I think early on the focus of the legislature and the Governor has been on tax relief, and in particular, there’s been legislative activity already to repeal the pension tax and to reinstate the earned income tax credit, which is now being referred to as the working family’s tax credit. So, you know, I think as we move forward in early February, the Governor will release her FY 24 executive budget, and then the focus of the legislature will certainly turn to the budget and getting the budget passed. You know, as far as aging advocates go, I think we’re going to see some focus on supporting direct care worker, and I think the topic of rebalancing is something which will continue to be important for aging advocates, and rebalancing means devoting a greater percentage of long-term care spending to home and community based services, as opposed to institutional or facility based services. So, you know, I think at least for the start of the year, that’s what we’re going to see in the way of topics.


Jason Maciejewski (05:10):

I think the budget process will be a bit interesting this year with the Governor coming with her budget message here in early February. With both legislative chambers and the governor’s [inaudible] with Democrats, do you think we’re gonna have a budget process that’s relatively smooth and straightforward, or is it because the margins are really close in the chambers that there could still be a lot of debate and contention?


Dave LaLumia (05:32):

I think that because the majorities in both the House and Senate are so tight that there isn’t gonna be much steamrolling, I don’t think, on any of the issues. So, I anticipate that all of the issues coming forward will be debated and that you may see crossover votes taking place on behalf of both Republicans and Democrats. So, I think it’s gonna be a very interesting session with a lot of debate and a lot of maybe consensus building or give and take in order to reach agreement on some of these issues.


Jason Maciejewski (06:05):

Budget issues are certainly a part of our advocacy platform, with the AreaAgency Meeting Association of Michigan, and we’ve got a number of planks in our platform at The Senior Alliance, which includes support for caregivers and reauthorizing and modernizing the older Americans Act, although federal legislation, the state puts money in to support those programs as well — things like Meals on Wheels and home-delivered meals program, in-home services, and many other things. For people that want to go to The Senior Alliance website at, we’ve got information on that. But Dave, as 4AM’s Executive Director, could you talk about the advocacy focus for the association for 2023?


Dave LaLumia (06:44):

I think we’re going to see, and our board of directors has adopted an advocacy platform which addresses direct care worker issues, and we’re going to be supporting increases in wages and benefits for direct care workers. We have a proposal before the legislature right now to create caregiver resource centers around the state through the AAA network. And this enhancement would support family and informal caregivers, which are becoming a more and more important part of our services and support infrastructure. So, supporting caregivers is, I think there’s a lot of momentum nationally and in state to do that, and we have a proposal before the legislature to establish these caregiver resource centers. We’re also gonna be looking at potential changes in the structure of the Medicaid MI Choice Waiver program and the dual eligible demonstration, so we are going to be watching that very carefully. The MI Choice Waiver is up for renewal, and the state has indicated its interest in transitioning from the MI HealthLink dual eligible demonstration program to moving dual eligibles into disability special needs plans. So, we want to focus on maintaining a strong position for the current waiver agents and area agencies on aging in working on both of these programs. So, you know, I think those three areas are are gonna be a primary focus for us during the appropriations process.


Jason Maciejewski (08:17):

Yeah, three very significant areas for those of us in the aging network to focus on in the coming year. One of the things we want to focus on as well is those appropriations that we mentioned earlier—home-delivered meals and in-home services. And Katie, you’re the facilitator of the Silver Key Coalition, so if you could maybe tell us what the Silver Key Coalition is and what the objectives are from the advocacy side.


Katie Wendel (08:44):

The Silver Key Coalition is a statewide group of individuals and agencies and, you know, senior service groups that are focused on addressing unmet needs for non-Medicaid home and community-based services and home-delivered meals. So, area agencies on aging receive money from the federal and state governments to provide home and community-based services that aren’t Medicaid programs. As the area Agency on Aging 1B, we call that our community living program. might have slightly different names in each region, but these are in-home care services that are prioritized to serve those of greatest needs, but you don’t have to qualify for Medicaid to receive them. And we know those that are individuals that are just above that Medicaid income guideline are often in a really tough spot. They don’t qualify for the robust services like the MI Choice Medicaid Waiver Program because of their income, but they still have care needs, and it’s really difficult to afford paying privately for in-home care services, you know, to get a direct care worker in your home. So, area agencies on aging are prepared to fill that gap and place services in the home for those individuals and, you know, help avoid maybe a nursing home placement or burnout of your family caregivers by getting some more support in the home. But, there’s not enough funding to meet the need. There’s a waitlist of over 6,800 older Michiganians across the state that have, you know, expressed their desire to get these in-home services, but there’s just not enough funding to meet their needs right now. So, we are committed as a coalition to data-driven advocacy, so we look at the amount of individuals on that waiting list, the cost to serve them, projected increases of demand due to the population growth among older adults, and we put those figures in front of key decision makers on the appropriation subcommittees and, you know, urge them to address this unmet need in the state. Again, those non-Medicaid in-home services and home-delivered meals, those really help individuals stay in their homes and communities.


Jason Maciejewski (10:50):

I think it’s really important to note the data behind the Silver Key Coalition’s work. It is really based upon those wait lists and service numbers, and these are not numbers that we pull out of thin air. We can document the need that’s out there, and it’s a really important thing that we advocate for every year in Lansing to meet that wait list need that’s out there for an important program that helps people stay in their homes. And when we think about advocating effectively and engaging with state legislators, Dave, I’m wondering if you could maybe point out a few things that the advocates in the community could do to have an impact on aging policy and these appropriations measures we’ve been talking about.


Dave LaLumia (11:32):

Yeah. This is…2023 is such a unique year that I think there are a number of things that advocates can do to send and carry their message. We have new districts, new members, our challenges early are getting to know people. So, getting to know your members, House and Senate, getting to know their staff. Email messages and phone calls to offices are still an important way of reaching legislators. Most legislators have some sort of in-district, events, coffees. or appearances locally, and try to tap into those as much as you can. Getting to know legislative staff. Staff are important. They carry the message to members, and they can open doors for you when an issue does come up that you want to communicate with your legislator on. But, you know, the most important thing is developing a relationship with your legislators. And it’s challenging this year because of the new districts, because of the many new members, so we all have to find ways to build those relationships to get to know people so that our voice can [inaudible] when the issues come up during the appropriations process and in other ways.


Jason Maciejewski (12:47):

And Katie, there’s a lot of work that we do at the AAA level. The Area Agency on Aging Network is very active. Silver Key Coalition is kind of a membership thing that we’re in. But, there are other things like the Advisory Council. So, if you could maybe talk about people could engage with their area Agency on Aging and get involved in advocacy to have an impact.


Katie Wendel (13:06):

Area Agencies on Aging are really unique and powerful in that we’re charged to advocate on behalf of those we serve by the federal Older Americans Act. So, staying informed by connecting with your local area Agency on Aging is a great place to start. I know several of us have advocacy newsletters. My agency, the AAA 1B, puts out the Advocate Newsletter monthly. Jason, I know your team has an advocacy newsletter as well. Getting on those lists, staying up to date on the issues is really a great place to advocate. So whatever issue you are most passionate about, we can keep you informed, whether it’s supporting the MI Choice Medicaid Waiver program or preventing elder abuse. As different bills come up, we’re committed to keeping you informed, so our grassroots advocates can make their voices heard. Of course, we also have kind of more formal opportunities with our advisory councils with MSAC, which is the Michigan Senior Advocates Council that all of the area agencies appoint older adults to serve as advocates on that statewide group. So, really, just connecting in whatever way you’re able to, and then once those action alerts come out, speak up and connect with your local officials. We hear from, especially state legislators, all the time how impactful it is when their constituents reach out. There’s a lot of issues that come by that they don’t hear community, so letting them know how important senior issues are is really key. And then, you can also participate in advocacy action days. So, the Area Agency on Aging Association of Michigan has the Older Michiganian Day, which is taking place on May 17th. So, that’ll be a statewide day of action focused on senior issues that the community is invited to participate in.


Jason Maciejewski (14:49):

So, Katie, at The Senior Alliance, we have our advocacy newsletter, which you referenced called Colloquy, and people can go to our website at and get information on that. For information on MSAC and what we’re doing at the state level, Dave, people can go to the 4AM website, which is the number four, the letter A, the letter M, the letter I .org. And there’s information on the state website as well. But Katie, your monthly newsletter, the Advocate, could you tell people how they could sign up to receive that?


Katie Wendel (15:18):

If you go to the Area Agency on Aging 1B’s website, that’s A A A 1 B as in boy .org, and then right at the top of the page will be an advocacy link. If you click that, you can see all of our advocacy materials, including how to sign up for that monthly Advocate newsletter.


Jason Maciejewski (15:37):

Great. Thank you. And Dave, I’ve got one more question for you. The Michigan Senior Advocates Council, which Katie referenced, they meet monthly. Could you talk a little bit about the impact that they can have on the legislative process as advocates? And if people want to join, how do they do that?


Dave LaLumia (15:54):

Yeah. The Michigan Senior Advocates Council is an incredible group of older adults that are appointed by their AAA. And this group meets every month to talk about the issues and to prioritize their advocacy activities and to call, write, and visit their state legislators. Pre-pandemic, the MSAC group met in the Senate office building in downtown Lansing, and they would meet in the morning and then go up to their Senate and House offices and visit with members and talk about the key issues. Since the pandemic, they’ve been meeting virtually, but are about to go back to meeting in person. So, anybody interested in being a part of the Michigan Senior Advocates Council should approach their AAA and ask to be appointed to the MSAC group. They’re very passionate. They’re very action oriented, and they really have had a tremendous impact on advancing issues for older adults and people with disabilities.


Jason Maciejewski (17:00):

Great. Thanks for explaining MSAC and their role. At the Senior Alliance, we do have a couple of openings in seats on MSAC, so anybody that lives in Western Wayne or Down River that is interested, please get ahold of us at the Senior Alliance, and we’d be glad to talk to you about becoming involved. Dave and Katie, thank you for joining me today on this episode of Inside the Senior Alliance.


Dave LaLumia (17:19):

Thanks, Jason.


Katie Wendel (17:20):

Thank you.


Jason Maciejewski (17:21):

If you have any questions about services or programs The Senior Alliance offers, you can call us at 1-800-815-1112 or email us at Information about our agency or the programs and services we offer found on our website at On Facebook, we can be located by searching for the Senior Alliance. And finally, our Twitter handle is @AAA1C. I’m Jason Maciejewski. Thank you for listening to this episode of Inside the Senior Alliance.


Speaker 4 (17:51):

Inside the Senior Alliance is a production of The Senior Alliance and Blazing Kiss Media.

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