COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- Backers of legislation to strengthen protections for South Carolina's elderly and vulnerable hope their bill can become law this year.

Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell and Sen. Thomas Alexander said Wednesday it is time to toughen penalties for those who take advantage of the elderly or vulnerable. Their proposal closes loopholes in a 1993 law that attempted to protect such citizens, but they say didn't go far enough.

The lieutenant governor and the Walhalla Republican say the bill expands protections for those over 60 and the vulnerable from abuse, neglect, exploitation and human trafficking.

McConnell is in charge of the state's office on aging and Alexander is chairman of the Joint Legislative Committee on Aging.

South Carolina has 900,000 seniors, a number McConnell says will double in 15 years.

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