By Blenda Copeland
In October, a group of senior citizens from across the state will meet on issues of importance to seniors, in hopes of effecting legislative action.
Francis Kimber, a deacon of Franchise Missionary Baptist Church, is a member of the Alabama Silver Haired Legislature (ASHL). Her director is Selena Daniel, who is listed as representing District 83.
Kimber said her sister Joyce Upshaw of Salem, encouraged her to become active in the ASHL. “Together we have put together a resolution,” she said, which will be presented at the ASHL’s meeting next month.
The resolution focuses on transportation for seniors, particularly those who are confined, such as in wheelchairs. Kimber said she feels like areas in Salem and Motts and other rural areas could especially benefit from the legislature designating funds to sponsor transportation for seniors who can’t physically board on the PEX transportation (bus system operated by the Lee-Russell Council of Governments).
The ASHL is a senior-led action group of people age 60 and older who are elected. The group seeks to advocate for issues of importance to senior-aged adults in part by seeking to get bills passed at the State House – with members assigned to reach out to four different legislators that represent districts 83, 79, 38 and 80. The ASHL works with the Alabama Aging Network as well as the Alabama Department of Senior Services and the local Area Agencies on Aging. The ASHL was established by a join resolution Aug. 8, 1991.
Every year, the ASHL meets for an annual session in October modeled after the operation of the Alabama House of Representatives. Members of the ASHL are elected to two-year terms for all of the state’s 105 legislative districts, paralleling membership in the Alabama State House of Representatives. Elections are conducted by the 13 state Area Agencies on Aging the first Tuesday in May of each election cycle. To be elected, one must be 60 years old or older; registered to vote in Alabama; a resident of the district or area to be represented; not employed by an Area Agency on Aging; not a paid lobbyist; and not a member of the Alabama State Legislature or a candidate.
Participation in the ASHL is one way in which senior citizens may make memorable contributions to the state at the legislative level. In Kimber’s case, her dedication has even led to state-level recognition.
In 2015, Kimber was inducted into the Alabama Senior Citizens Hall of Fame – a recognition created by the Alabama Legislature on July 28, 1983. She was honored with the Alabama Senior Citizens Hall of Fame Religious Honorary Award “for significantly improving the quality of life and welfare of older American citizens.”