Legislature(2015 - 2016)
2015-05-16 House JournalFull Journal pdf
2015-05-16 House Journal Page 1185 HB 5 The following letter was dated and received May 14, 2015, at 5:06 p.m.: 2015-05-16 House Journal Page 1186 "Dear Speaker Chenault: Under the authority vested in me by Article II, Section 15, of the Alaska Constitution, I have vetoed the following bill: SENATE CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 5(JUD) "An Act relating to the persons who may be appointed guardians of incapacitated persons or conservators of protected persons." This bill would remove restrictions in current law upon who the court may appoint as a guardian or conservator for an incapacitated or protected person, but does so without the necessary safeguards to ensure those persons appointed will act in the best interests of the incapacitated or protected person. Under current law, the court may appoint a person as a guardian or conservator, despite a potential conflict of interest, only if the person is the spouse, adult child, parent, or sibling of the incapacitated or protected person and the court finds that the potential conflict of interest is insubstantial and that the appointment would clearly be in the best interest of the incapacitated or protected person. The most common type of conflict of interest is when the person to be appointed as a guardian or conservator is also serving as a service provider to the incapacitated or protected person. The bill would remove the requirement that a person with a potential conflict of interest be a family member. In short anyone - related or not - to the person in need of protection could have legal control over the vulnerable person's legal affairs and finances. Although the bill would still require the court to make written finding as to the nature and scope of the conflict of interest, that requirement is not enough to ensure that guardians and conservators who are not family members will act in the best interest of the protected person. More protections, such as requiring a background check for example, would be needed in order for me to be assured that vulnerable Alaskans will be protected. As originally proposed by the sponsor, the bill would have addressed conservatorships only, and would have required that the person with a potential conflict of interest could be appointed conservator if that person was an adult related by blood, marriage, or adoption to the protected person (instead of being the spouse, adult child, parent, or 2015-05-16 House Journal Page 1187 sibling). But, during the legislative process, the bill was amended so to allow an unrelated person with a potential conflict of interest to be appointed as a guardian or conservator. This broadening of the pool of persons who could serve as a guardian or conservator was not accompanied by needed safeguards to ensure only reliable and trustworthy persons would be appointed. My objections are based on the sad reality that opportunities for abuse and fraud exist within the framework of guardianships and conservatorships. By making it easier for service providers to be appointed as guardians and conservators, the bill raises the risk that seniors, and those very dependent on others, could be at risk of financial abuse and exploitation by those tasked with their care. I am particularly concerned about our elder citizens and the possibility this bill could make them more vulnerable to elder financial abuse. Unfortunately, the incidence of elder financial abuse is significant, and the consequences are devastating. Numerous news reports and studies highlight that incidences of financial loss due to financial exploitation of elders is a growing problem. In addition to the mental distress caused to victims, the financial toll on victims, their families, and the agencies that serve vulnerable adults is enormous. An elderly person who is the victim of financial abuse may be more likely to require state services, such as adult protective services and medical assistance. Since the scope of the problem of financial abuse is enormous and complex, we must proceed very cautiously and ensure that maximum protections exist in State law to thwart the problems of financial and other abuse against elders and other vulnerable persons by those very persons appointed to protect them. This bill lacks the comprehensive and cautious approach required. For these reasons, I have vetoed SCS HB 5 (JUD). Sincerely, /s/ Bill Walker Governor"