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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Bills Targeting Elder Abuse Advance In Montana Legislature

HELENA -- The Montana Legislature advanced bills this week aimed at protecting elderly and vulnerable adults from abuse.

Rep. Barbara Bessette, D-Great Falls, is sponsoring House Bill 566, which passed out of the Senate Business, Labor and Economic Affairs Committee 9-1 Friday. The proposed legislation would require all assisted living facilities to provide background checks for new employees. It now will move to the full Senate after passing the House 63-35 in March.

Eve Franklin with the Montana Health Care Association supports the bill. During its public hearing Friday, she said background checks should be standard for assisted living care.

“We found out that, actually, most of our members already do background checks. And they were very comfortable with saying: ‘all folks in our industry should do this as well,’” Franklin said.

Another bill, Senate Bill 205, passed the House 88-9. Sponsored by Sen. Steve Fitzpatrick, R-Great Falls, the bill would not allow someone who steals from vulnerable adults to also inherit from them.

Adrian Cotton with AARP supported the bill during its public hearing in February. She said the people who most commonly steal from elders are their family members who can be included in wills.

“Financial exploitation can exhaust seniors’ incomes, reduce their healthcare options and leave them impoverished. A perpetrator of this insidious form of elder abuse should not stand to profit from their crimes,” Cotton said.

Fitzpatrick also sponsored Senate Bill 311, which passed its initial vote in the House 61-39 Friday. That bill would encourage banks to report fraudulent transactions, or delay fraudulent transactions if they believe there is exploitation.

“When you get into situations where people are being exploited, the banks have an obligation — even if they think it’s fraudulent — to process the transaction. We want to incentivize banks to stop financial exploitation, but we don’t want to turn this into a lawsuit-fest,” Fitzpatrick said. 

Tim Pierce is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Greater Montana Foundation and the Montana Newspaper Association.

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