Protecting those who most need it

By CAM WARD / Guest Columnist

My goal as a state senator is to be a force for good – to recognize laws that need updating, changing or abolishment and using my position to advocate for what is needed to make Alabama the best we can be.

Sometimes that entails updating our cyber crime laws, and sometimes it entails working with the Permanent Joint Legislative Committee on Energy to encourage a sensible state energy economy and create jobs.

It always means looking for common sense conservative legislation to protect the most vulnerable of our citizens.

Much of my career in elected office has focused on children’s issues like education and access to care for those on the autism spectrum.

Lately, the importance of protecting of Alabama’s elderly citizens has come to my attention.

These two issues go hand in hand, as they both seek to protect the well-being of those who need it most and expand the opportunities available to them.

Every day in Alabama, elderly citizens are abused, neglected, defrauded and intimidated by family members and caregivers whose job is to take care of their health, well-being and financial needs.

These crimes are not the ones that are splashed on the front pages of our newspapers, but they nonetheless affect a significant proportion of our population.

State Rep. Paul DeMarco and I have pre-filed a bill for the upcoming 2013 regularsSession of the Alabama Legislature that would establish the crime of elder abuse.

As chairmen of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees, respectively, we are committed to using the law to protect our vulnerable elderly citizens from those charged with their care.

Defrauding and deceiving by commission or omission will be codified in Alabama’s Criminal Procedure Codes as a tool for law enforcement to use against people and companies whose practices result in harm to Alabama citizens older than the age of 60.

These laws will also encompass crimes of neglect such as not feeding, sheltering or properly tending to an elderly person’s medical needs — no matter if it is their intention to abuse the person or not.

I want to make our intentions very clear: abusing or neglecting, stealing through fraud, not performing promised work and outright theft will not be tolerated in our state.

Cam Ward is a state senator from Alabaster.