A state Senate panel on Wednesday endorsed the creation of a new state Department of Elderly Affairs.

The Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee approved the House-passed measure and shipped it to the state Senate for debate.

House Bill 352 sponsor state Rep. Joe Harrison said the separate department is essential in meeting the needs of a growing number of senior citizens and making Louisiana more attractive to retirees.

“We can have a retirement state, not only for our people but people around the country,” said Harrison, R-Napoleonville. “We need to seize that because of the opportunities.”

Louisiana would become the first state in the nation with a Department of Elderly Affairs, Harrison said. “It’s one that puts us ahead,” he added.

Committee chairman Sen. Jody Amedee, R-Gonzales, said he planned to propose an amendment that would merge two other state departments instead of expanding the current maximum of 20 allowed in the state constitution. He did not specify which ones. A 21st department would require a constitutional amendment.

Amedee said a 21st department “would create more bureaucracy in our government.”

“If you don’t have a problem with anything being combined ... I am going to have an amendment for the floor to try to do that,” Amedee said.

Harrison said he has no problem with the idea.