By Brad Schrade

Abuses by legal guardians and conservators are a growing problem across the country as the population ages, and Minnesota policymakers on Wednesday announced a plan to weed out bad actors by strengthening the state’s background check process.

State Attorney General Lori Swanson is supporting a legislative push this session to require more detailed and frequent background checks on this loosely regulated industry that oversees the affairs of those in need of help.

“Financial abuse by guardians who are supposed to be looking out for vulnerable people is exploitive,” Swanson said in a release. “The legislation would update Minnesota law to help ensure that guardians meet the high standards necessary to look after another persons.”

The bill would expand checks to review whether a guardian or conservator was denied a state license for some fiduciary transgression or if there was some licensing action against them. It would require the disclosure of information in their past that could raise questions about their fitness for the job, such as if they have ever filed for bankruptcy or had an order of protection against them.

It will also lower the frequency for background checks from every five years to every two years for those in the profession and require disclose potentially disqualifying information, including new criminal history, within 30 days of the incident, according to a release detailing the proposal.

The chief sponsors for the legislation will be a pair of DFL lawmakers -- Rep. Debra Hilstrom, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Ron Latz, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office recently issued a report detailing scores of problems of abuse and exploitation by guardians. U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar is pursuing legislation at the federal level to crack down on elder abuse and exploitation by guardians and conservators.

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