Fighting Elder Abuse

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.



Statehouse, Des Moines, IA 50319

E-Verify Review

The murder of Mollie Tibbetts has generated discussion of the federal E-Verify program. The alleged killer’s employer at first claimed that they had checked on his eligibility for employment through the E-Verify program, and he passed, meaning that he could be hired legally. Shortly thereafter they admitted that they had not used the E-Verify program. It has now been established that the alleged killer was not in the country legally, and could not be hired legally in the U. S. E-Verify is not mandatory, but many employers throughout the U. S. and Iowa use it voluntarily to be sure that they are not violating federal law when they hire employees. You may remember that for the past several years, I have introduced a bill (most recently Senate File 412) to require Iowa employers to use E-Verify when hiring employees. Though most Republican Senators support the bill, I have not yet been able to get it passed.

Here is the official description of the E-Verify system:

“E-Verify is a web-based system that allows enrolled employers to confirm the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States. E-Verify employers verify the identity and employment eligibility of newly hired employees by electronically matching information provided by employees on the Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, against records available to the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).”

Addressing this issue at the state level is a little tricky. Federal law found in 8 U.S.C. § 1324a(h)(2) pre-empts most state authority in the area of immigration, “other than through licensing and similar laws.”

The State of Arizona passed a law several years ago making E-Verify mandatory, and providing for the revoking of licenses to do business in the state for those who hire people in the state illegally. The term “license” is defined rather broadly. The law was challenged and the case went all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court. That court ruled that the law was not in conflict with the pre-emption provisions of federal law. Because the legality of the law had been upheld, I modeled my bill after the Arizona law. A number of other states now have mandatory E-Verify laws.

I notice that ICE has issued a detainer request for the defendant in this case. Under my bill, SF 481, that we passed in the legislature last session, if this defendant would be scheduled for release, which seems very unlikely in light of the $5 million bond, the local authorities would be obligated to turn him over to ICE instead of releasing him into the community.

I will continue to work to get the E-Verify bill passed.