On April 5, I guided a bill (Senate File 522) through the Iowa Senate to fight elder abuse. For purposes of the bill, an elder Iowan is any Iowan 60 years old or older. All of us have probably known of situations where a relative or someone else in a position of trust has taken advantage financially of an older person. This is a bill that I worked on last year but we were only able to pass it this year.
Some of the provisions are:
Assault of an older individual, with penalties ranging from a simple misdemeanor to a Class D felony, depending of the severity of the assault. A class D felony is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine from $750 to $7,500.
Theft of assets of an older individual, raising the penalties for theft one degree depending on the details of the theft.
Elder abuse with penalties ranging from a serious misdemeanor to a Class C felony, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and a fine of $1,000 up to $10,000.
Financial exploitation of an older individual with penalties ranging from a serious misdemeanor to a Class B felony, which is punishable by up to 25 years in prison.
Last year we amended the bill to provide an exemption for those providing advice in good faith. There were concerns that people such as attorneys or financial advisors might be charged if their advice did not turn out well.
I am pleased to have been able to play a role in getting this bill passed to provide additional protection for our senior citizens.
Protecting Municipal Utility Board Members
The next day we passed the bill that Representative Boden and I had worked on, to provide some protection for members of independent municipal utilities boards (HF 2475). Indianola has a municipal utilities board that operates the utilities in the city. The members of the board are paid $1,000 per year. They are supposed to be independent of political pressure. In the election last November, the incumbent mayor lost her position. On her way out the door, she tried to fire two members of the Indianola Utilities Board. Though she ultimately ran out of time, the effort cost the city significant legal fees. The bill now goes to Governor Reynolds.
The bill provides that utilities board members can only be fired for corruption, misconduct or other similar activities, or habitually failing to attend meetings, with the unanimous support of the city council. Though the events in Indianola were the immediate cause for the bill, we did hear from people from other cities and towns, that they supported the bill.