View from the Capitol
Engage Magazine Spring/Summer 2021

View from the Capitol: A Look Back…

by Eric Dowdy, Chief Government Affairs Officer, LeadingAge California

As LeadingAge California reflects on its 60 years of service, it is important to note that advocacy has always been central to the work and mission of the organization. Formed to protect its members’ nonprofit status in 1961, the association has never lost sight of its commitment to be involved in major public policy decisions of the last six decades. When LeadingAge California was established (formally known as California Association of Homes for the Aging), Edmund Gerald “Pat” Brown was serving his first term as governor of California, touting his “responsible liberalism” agenda. The state Assembly Speaker, Jesse M. Unruh, or “Big Daddy Unruh” as he was known in the Capitol, brought a new realism to the politics of the time. Unruh’s views on politicking, the accumulation of power, and the role of campaign fundraising were legendary. He is frequently quoted saying “Money is the mother’s milk of politics.”

Eric DowdyA year after the association’s founding, California officially became the largest state with a little over 16 million residents. Today, our population is over 39 million, with 6 million over the age of 65. While the overall population appears to be on the decline, the aging of our state is anticipated to continue. This reinforces the need for LeadingAge California members to be at the table as public policy continues to evolve to meet the expanding need. Over the years, the association now known as LeadingAge California has been instrumental in developing public policy that resulted in the Assisted Living Waiver Pilot Project and promoting models like the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), Greenhouse and small house skilled nursing models, affordable senior housing with services, and the village movement, among numerous others. Nonprofit providers have always been on the vanguard of change and re-evaluating how we can best deliver services to California’s older adults.

Most recently, our advocacy on the Master Plan for Aging has resulted in a substantial shift in the way California is prioritizing its older adults. The coalitions that have been built as a part of the process has placed LeadingAge California in a central role that spans numerous service lines in the aging services space, from home-based services to healthcare settings. LeadingAge California membership’s nonprofit influence continues to be an important part of the conversation. We are proud that those efforts were recognized in the recent May Revision of the 2021-2022 State Budget, which includes historic funding for numerous priority issues of the association. As we look forward, the future seems filled with possibility. The pandemic has refocused policymakers’ attention on the aging services sector and new and different investments are being discussed that hold real promise. With the history of success and the engagement of our incredible membership, those changes can become a reality.

Thank you for all the work you continue to do..