HB 72 Announced Today: A Bill to Protect Our Seniors

Representative Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs) and Senator Renee Unterman (R-District 45) held a press conference to announce House Bill 72 (HB72) this morning at the Capitol. The legislation aims to close up gaps left after the passage of House Bill 78 back in 2013.

The Georgia Council on Aging (GCOA), an advisory group formed by the governor, assembly and state agencies in 1977 has been working diligently to move this legislation forward. According to the GCOA, elder abuse is increasing in the state. From 2008-2012, reports of abuse increased by 65%. House Bill 72 was passed to address this epidemic, but as prosecutors have tried these cases they have also identified necessary improvements to the existing legislation.

One new provision would be the ability to allow cases to be tried where the senior lives, rather than at the location of the fraud or incident. “Let’s say an 80 year old resident of Brookdale [Senior Living] outside the city has their funds stolen from a location in Fulton, are we really going to make that 80 year old person travel for a series of hearings?” said GBI Director, Vernon Keenan.

Some of the other provisions of HB72 include:

-Allowing prosecutors to try crimes as RICO violations in order to hold groups accountable for defrauding or abusing elderly and/or vulnerable adults.

-Allowing information collected during departmental inspection or complaint investigation to be used as evidence in a criminal trial.

-Clarifying who has to report suspected financial exploitation. In particular, including banking professionals such as brokers or financial advisers as mandated reporters.

Georgia Watch will be supporting this legislation as part of our policy agenda during the 2015 session providing updates via our blog, Facebook and twitter accounts.