ALFA AdvoCACy 2008
Keeping Pace With the States
By MariBetH Bersani
efforts to keep
and center at
With a national election looming, ALFA moved up its annual Advocacy Day from September to February, in an effort to
catch the attention of lawmakers while the business
of making laws remains front and center. While 2008
is expected to be a slow year for new legislation on
the senior housing front, ALFA will nonetheless create opportunities to keep our industry’s issues in the
We’ll also tackle specific issues, including a separate Advocacy Day in April to support the Secret Ballot Protection Act, an important piece of legislation
expected to move in Congress in 2009.
Primary Focus on States
This year, ALFA’s primary focus will continue to be
at the state level, where regulators have been busy
laying plans. In almost a dozen states, efforts are un-derway to rewrite the rules that govern senior housing operations. While the federal government slows
its legislative efforts in election years, states typically
pick up the pace, and ALFA will be working deeply at
the state level to influence any changes that surface.
One example involves the ongoing effort to ensure
existing rules remain in place. There’s always a temptation for state legislators to layer on new regulations,
even when no such changes might be needed. It will
be our job to show legislators that the current rules
are more than adequate.
Along these lines, ALFA as always supports the
licensure of assisted living communities and annual
unannounced surveys by the state. Efforts at the state
level will be aimed at helping lawmakers understand
the industry position and demonstrating that existing
frameworks already serve consumers well.
In pressing this agenda at the state level, ALFA
will continue to rely on its constituency to help shoulder the load. Families, residents, and employees all
carry a special weight with lawmakers: As constituents, their voices often are heard louder than communications from outsiders. To that end, ALFA is introducing this year a Grassroots Tool Kit. The Tool Kit
will show local activists how to contact legislators and
organize meetings, how to develop relevant talking
points, and how to engage families in the process.
Examples of state-level issues can be seen in South
Carolina and Tennessee. In both states, lawmakers
have introduced bills that would ensure residents in
assisted living have the right to remain in place when
they enter hospice care. While the majority of states
allow this, several still do not. ALFA belives it is a basic right of all residents and will push for legislation
wherever it is possible in the coming year.
In another state-level development, there has
been some discussion lately of creating mechanisms
whereby assisted living communities could be rated
for the sake of comparison. ALFA is not opposed to
this, but wants to see it done right.
North Carolina, for example, is developing such
a system, and ALFA is working to ensure that the
end product of that effort is a rating protocol that is
meaningful to consumers. The danger here is that a
“rating system” might in fact be nothing more than
a checklist of perceived shortcomings. ALFA wants
to ensure that the various criteria truly reflect the significant aspects of a senior housing community. That
someone will be there to love and care for Mom is
the real litmus test, rather than a catalog of demerits
based on perceived technical flaws.
Beyond such specific issues, state-level advocacy is
important in another sense: Typically it is easier to influence legislation at the state level, where lawmakers
may be closer to the experiences of their constituents.
A state legislator can’t afford to ignore a few dozen
employees or family members, who at the federal
level might drop off the radar screen.
ALFA encourages its partners at the state level to begin forming relationships long before they turn to
legislators for help on regulatory or other matters.
Invite your representatives to your ribbon cuttings.
Then when a significant bill comes up, at least they
will know who is calling.
ALFA educates, influences, and informs, serving as
the thought leader on national trends and local rule-making. As such, ALFA can offer a bird’s-eye view that
legislators rely on: More than just an advocate, ALFA
is an asset to those seeking to wisely preside over
an industry that touches so many consumers so
Maribeth Bersani is ALFA’s senior vice president,
public policy. reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.