The Elder Abuse and Prevention Act has a good chance of becoming law this year, its key sponsor, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley predicted Thursday.

“It would make society a safer place for seniors,” Grassley said at a Judiciary session where the bill passed unanimously on a voice vote. The legislation has received wide support among elderly advocacy groups.

The Senator said the bill has a better chance of being enacted than an almost identical measure did last year because it ran out of time.

Among the protections:

• Penalties are increased for telemarketing and email marketing fraud against seniors.

• Each federal judicial district would have at least one Justice Department attorney focusing on senior fraud.

• Data collection of elder abuse would be greatly expanded by the federal government. AARP and other promoters of the aged have long contended a major reason prosecution of elder abuse is rare is because reliable statistics do not exist to show the high prevalence of the problem.

• More Justice Department training for state and local government on elder abuse.

“Seniors deserve to be treated with respect,” said the Iowa Republican, a senior citizen himself, said.

Senate Aging Chair Committee Susan Collins is a co-sponsor of the legislation.

The Maine Republican is pushing another bill of her own to increase senior protection.

Grassley’s Elder Abuse and Protection Act is aimed enlisting the Justice Department to become a greater protector of seniors than it is now.

But, Collins' Senior SAFE Act tries to expand the effort financial investment advisory, bank, credit union and broker-dealer employees who have received training in senior fraud.

The bill gives them immunity from privacy lawsuits for reporting suspected cases of senior fraud.