The California Senior Legislature yesterday awarded its Legislator of the Year award to Assembly member Mariko Yamada (D-Davis) at the group's annual meeting in Sacramento.
Yamada, chair of the Assembly Committee on Aging and Long-Term Care, said it's unthinkable that the state Legislature doesn't have a similar subcommittee on the Senate side.
"I would be remiss, as I enter my final year [as an Assembly member], to fail to note that, for some reason, there is no committee on aging -- or even a subcommittee -- on the Senate side," Yamada said.
"I think there's something wrong with this picture," she said.
Yamada has been an Assembly member for five years and will be termed out of office after next year. Looking back at her time in the Capitol, she said, the lack of attention to aging issues is the one legislative gap that really stands out.
"That's 40 individuals representing millions of Californians," Yamada said. "State senators have a greater reach [than Assembly members], they represent a greater number of individuals, and to not even have a subcommittee for an issue that's already affecting millions of Californians, there needs to be some questions asked."
California has the largest senior population in the country, and the number of seniors in the state will rise dramatically in the coming decades, she said. "By the year 2030, 1 in 5 Californians will be 65 or older," Yamada said. "That's 20% of the population over 65."
With that kind of demand, the Legislature really should have a standing committee in both houses, Yamada said.
"A subcommittee on aging is the least we can expect," she said. "This population … and these issues are crying out for some focused attention."
She pointed to an important potential ally in Sacramento to increase legislative attention on aging:
"Our governor is himself a senior," Yamada said. "So all the stars are aligned. It's time for us."
Delegates at the California Senior Legislature's four-day session in Sacramento this week will lay out next year's legislative agenda on senior issues.