TOPEKA — The Senate unanimously passed a pair of bills Thursday designed to help protect senior citizens against financial scams.
Senate Bill 354 gives prosecutors greater tools to seek justice against anyone who takes advantage of a senior, said Sen. Michael O’Donnell, R-Wichita. Offenders convicted of financially abusing a person over 60 could be prosecuted under the Kansas Consumer Protection Act.
“Anybody that would prey on Kansas seniors, we don’t want you anywhere around,” O’Donnell said. “We have no place for it.”
Senate Bill 355, also sponsored by O’Donnell, amends the Kansas Power of Attorney Act to ensure that anyone granted power of attorney for a senior citizen acts in their best interest. He explained that in the majority of “financial abuse” cases, seniors are scammed by relatives or neighbors.
O’Donnell crafted the legislation with the help of Nola Foulston, former Sedgwick County District Attorney, and current District Attorney Marc Bennett.
O’Donnell said that there wasn’t definitive data on how often elders are financially victimized in Kansas, but he quoted a statistic from the National Adult Protective Services Association that elders are defrauded out of more than $2 billion a year.
Senate Vice President Jeff King, R-Independence, who helped O’Donnell craft the legislation, said strengthening financial protections for seniors brings Kansas in line with other states.
“At the end of the day, it will make sure that people who steal money from seniors are brought to justice,” King added.
O’Donnell hopes that if the bill, which will head to the House, becomes law that it will improve the quality of life for Kansas seniors by ensuring their financial protection.
“We pride ourselves on being a great place to raise a family,” he said. “We need to start priding ourselves on (being) a great place to retire.
“We need to change the dynamic so people think Kansas is a great place at every stage of life.”