Wednesday, October 10, 2018
Pennsylvania's Legislature Stalls Guardianship Reform But Moves Forward on Controversial "Protection" Bill
As recent readers of the Elder Law Prof Blog will know, the Pennsylvania legislature is in the waning days of the 2018 legislative year. Despite strong support for basic reforms of adult guardianship laws, the legislature has once again stalled action on Senator Greenleaf's guardianship reform package, Senate Bill 884. Apparently the latest delay arose when one senator objected to a provision requiring criminal background checks for proposed new guardians, because of his own experiences as a guardian for an adult child.
Guardianship reform has been on the legislative docket since at least 2014 when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's Elder Law Task Force issued its comprehensive report recommending much needed changes, including higher standards for appointed guardians. But this one senator's late-breaking concerns triggered another delay. Similar legislation was approved by the Senate in the previous legislative term, only to be stalled that time in the House.
Thus, the contrast with another bill affecting seniors, one that is rushing through the Pennsylvania Legislature in 6 months, is particularly dramatic. House Bill 2291, as most recently amended in Printer's Version No. 3917, was introduced for the first time in April 2018 and cleared the Pennsylvania House with a unanimous vote on October 9, 2018.
The bill has been cast as "protection" of seniors against unwanted intrusions on their privacy by government investigators. Sounds like a commendable purpose. But the much larger purpose seems to be about protecting "providers" of certain types of housing for seniors, including "independent living units" in continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs, also called Life Plan Communities) and publically-funded "senior multifamily housing units," from investigation by Pennsylvania authorities where there are potential concerns about suitability of that type of unit for the needs of particular seniors, especially those at risk of self-neglect or third-party exploitation because of dementia. One member of the House, a legislator from Westmoreland County where a CCRC has been investigated (apparently the only such investigation in the state), has been quite successful in attracting support for his bill to prevent such investigations from happening in the future.
Now the Pennsylvania Senate will have all of three days -- its last three working days in 2018 -- to consider HB 2291 for the first time.
Has HB 2291 been carefully considered by all the stakeholders, including seniors and their families? It may not matter when the train is running at full steam.