Wisconsin Republicans introduce bills to combat elder abuse

By TODD RICHMOND Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Two Republican legislators introduced a package of legislation Tuesday that would combat elder abuse by increasing the criminal penalties and allowing financial advisers and bankers to delay seniors' questionable transactions.

The bill's chief authors, state Sen. Patrick Testin and Rep. John Macco, told reporters during a news conference that data from the state Department of Health Services show the number of elder abuse cases in Wisconsin has increased by 160 percent since 2001. They warned that the problem will only grow worse as Wisconsin's population ages.

"This trend (of elder abuse) is going to increase exponentially," Macco said. "We need to do better. With an aging population, we will have to do better."

The bills stem from recommendations developed by a task force that former Attorney General Brad Schimel put together to study elder abuse. The task force released draft versions of the bills in October.

The package includes measures that would make sexual misconduct against a victim 60 years old or older a felony punishable by up to 60 years in prison. The crime is currently a felony punishable by up to 40 years in prison.

The bills also would create the crime of physical abuse against an elder, defined as a person 60 or older. Penalties would range from three-and-a-half years to 40 years in prison. Defendants convicted of crimes against the elderly could face new penalty enhancers ranging from two to six additional years in prison, depending on the offense's maximum sentence.

Judges would be required to expedite court proceedings in crimes involving elderly victims or witnesses to minimize stress on them.

Brokers, investment advisers, financial advisers, banks and other lenders could delay an elderly person's financial transactions if they suspect the person is being exploited. They would be allowed to notify the state Division of Financial Institutions and protective service agencies of suspected exploitation.

Alec Zimmerman, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, had no immediate comment. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos' spokeswoman, Kit Beyer, said Vos looks forward to discussing the bills with the Republican caucus in the coming weeks.

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