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Ventura County Roundup | Countywide

3 to Represent County Seniors at Legislature

October 11, 1998|NICK GREEN

The state Legislature may not be in session, but a powerful governmental body is gearing up to work nonetheless--the California Senior Legislature.

The group, with three Ventura County representatives in attendance, will hold its 18th annual session Oct. 19 and 20 in the same state Capitol chambers used by the regular Legislature.

Senior Sen. Bob Warnagieris of Ventura, Senior Assemblyman Jesse Dunlap of Camarillo and Senior Assemblywoman Barbara DeNoon of Ojai will travel to Sacramento to be sworn in with 117 of their counterparts from around California.

Although the entity may have a low profile, there is no disputing its influence.

"Some 75% of our bill proposals since 1981 have been successfully passed into law," said Warnagieris, who along with Dunlap is beginning his second two-year term.

"Many of [last year's bills] are on the governor's desk right now."

The senior legislature was created in 1981 to provide a forum for the concerns of the state's ever-growing population of older adults.

Today, there are more than 5 million people over 60 in California, Warnagieris said. And they have the political clout to make the powers that be in the state take notice.

"We hold the senior legislature in pretty high regard," said Gavin Payne, chief aide to Sen. Jack O'Connell (D-San Luis Obispo).

"They're an important demographic group and they're fairly well-organized. They go through a very thorough process of developing their legislative package."

About 3.25 million seniors are registered to vote, and more than 90% actually make it to the polls, a voting rate twice as high as 35-year-olds, Warnagieris said.

The local representatives will take with them half a dozen bill proposals that address such issues as staffing ratios for care facilities, housing of sufferers of Alzheimer's disease and veterans burial ceremonies. Their proposals will vie with about 100 expected to be submitted and discussed during the session.

Warnagieris, Dunlap and freshman DeNoon were elected to two-year terms in elections conducted by the local Area Agency on Aging.

The three encourage seniors to contact them with their concerns.

Warnagieris, who is retired from his post as a senior civilian worker at a local military base, can be reached at 642-9632.

Dunlap, who retired after 30 years in the Air Force and is a member of the Ojai Parks and Recreation Commission, is at 484-1455.

DeNoon, a retired social worker, can be reached at 646-0261.

Although it is estimated that more than 104,000 people 60 or over live in the county, this year only 738 ballots were cast countywide in the Agency on Aging election. In past years, the figure has been as high as 3,000.

Official attribute that to a lack of understanding about the role of the senior legislature, but note that the importance of the body is growing along with changing demographics.

Most dramatic is the coming explosion in the estimated number of people over 85, which is expected to triple countywide by 2010.

"This is a growth industry because of the massive aging of our population," Warnagieris said. "This [legislature] is a voice for seniors--who have significant clout."

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