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SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The California state legislature passed a controversial elder abuse bill on August 15, the first day the body reconvened from summer recess. It was signed into law by Governor Schwarzenegger, and takes effect January 2007. SB 1018 requires financial institution employees to act as mandated reporters, with the responsibility of recognizing suspected elder and dependent adult financial abuse and reporting it to authorities. In a rare show of solidarity, both the California Credit Union League and the banking lobby opposed the bill for much of the legislative hearing process because it placed legal responsibility upon employees to identify and report suspected abuse. Initial drafts of the bill also threatened employees with criminal penalties for failure to report suspected abuse. Although the new law still requires credit union employees to act as mandated reporters, the California Credit Union League reduced its position to neutral on the final draft. League negotiators and representatives from the California Bankers Association were able to negotiate changes to the final draft, including a reduction in penalties from criminal to civil, and the assessment of said penalties only in the event the employee willfully does not report suspected abuse. The bill mandates that enforcement can only be brought by the state attorney general, district attorney or county counsel, preventing private party suits. Additionally, industry groups were able to negotiate a delayed implementation of the bill, and a sunset provision, which requires the bill to be extended by the legislature in 2012. If not extended, the law will simply expire.

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