May 18, 2007
By Jerry Kopel
Colorado has not had a mortuary licensing law for 25 years, but Rep. Debbie Stafford, R-Aurora, will likely never give up her attempts to give us one.
In the Colorado Press Assn. 2005 legislative directory under "Agenda", the first item for Rep. Stafford was "Funeral Industry Standards of Practice".
This year, Rep. Stafford tried again with HB 1231. It was killed in House Business Affairs committee.
Opposition to mortuary licensing goes back to 1977 when a state auditor review urged repeal.
In 1978, the legislature set a repeal date of 1981, after a 1980 Sunset review by the Dept.Of Regulatory Agencies (DORA). In 1981, the House voted against licensing by 41 to 19. Our Sunset law gives an agency reviewed two years to avoid repeal. The subsequent attempt in 1982 failed.
DORA reviewed a mortuary licensing application in 1990, and again in 2002. Each time DORA opposed reviving licensing. The 2002 report stated "there is no evidence that a licensing board could improve existing oversight".
There is plenty of oversight. The original consumer protections in the Mortuary Science Law was retained. In 2003 Rep. Stafford was responsible for modernizing those protections through HB 1305 after an earlier bill, HB 1064, died in committee.
Other oversight comes from the Dept. of Insurance, the Colorado Consumer Protection Act, the State Health Code, the Occupation Health and Safety Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Thanks to Rep. Stafford's 2003 bill, Colorado consumer protections regarding mortuaries are stronger than most states than license mortuaries.
In 2002, Rep. Stafford lost a mortuary consumer protection bill, HB 1451, in the Senate, concerning handling remains of a dead human. The subject matter was successfully implemented in 2003 under HB 1312 by Rep,. Mark Larson, R-Cortez.
Rep. Stafford tried mortuary licensing again in 2006 with HB 1348. It died in House Appropriations. SB 239 on the same subject, with Rep. Stafford as House sponsor passed, but was vetoed by Gov. Bill Owens.
If Rep. Stafford wins a Senate seat in 2008, the legislature can expect more yearly attempts to license, certify, and register various aspects of mortuary practice.
While Colorado is still the only state not licensing morticians, the horrendous nationwide examples of abuse in the funeral industry have come from "regulated" states.
The push for a bill in 2008 may already have begun. Horan and McConaty, an independent family-owned funeral home has sent out unsolicited mailings with a questionnaire to be answered "yes" or "no".
Question 5 states: "Are you aware that the majority of the funeral and cremation providers in Denver are owned by out of state corporations?"
Question 6 states: "Are you aware that Colorado is the only state in the U.S. that does not license or inspect funeral homes or crematories?"
You can answer the questionnaire and return it postage free to Horan and McConaty.
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This year, Rep. Stafford spread her wings to carry HB 1083 to license private investigators. DORA had urged a "no" vote and the bill died in House Business Affairs committee. Private investigators were deregulated by a state Supreme Court decision in 1977.
Several other regulatory bills have been killed. HB 1122 by Rep. Debbie Benefield, D-Arvada, would have prohibited school districts with more than 1,500 enrolled students from hiring unlicensed physical education instructors. It was vetoed by Gov. Bill Ritter.
HB 1080 by Rep. Judy Solano, D-Adams, passed the House 40 to 24 to license art therapists, but it was killed in the Senate Health committee. Art therapists can presently practice and are regulated when included in the data based of unlicensed psychotherapists.
HB 1192, by Rep. Jeanne Labuda, D-Denver, would have licensed naturopathic doctors who have graduated from post-graduate classes at an accredited school. Thirteen states presently license them.
The bill passed House Health Committee, went to Appropriations, was referred back to Health, where it was killed. Naturopathics have attempted to be licensed since the early 1990's, and the DORA review urged they be regulated.
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Before inviting a mortgage broker into your home, please read the devastating report on the occupation written in 2005 by the Colorado Dept. of Regulatory Agencies (DORA).
Colorado "registered" mortgage brokers in 2006, and after major bad publicity about the occupation, raised the stakes to licensing in 2007.
SB 203 by Sen. Peter Groff, D-Denver and Rep. Rosemary Marshall, D-Denver, provides more "thou shall not" restrictions and concise listing of violations which can be used by law enforcement as well as DORA to exact punishment.
In addition, DORA can set an error and omissions monetary requirement, the amount to be decided by DORA's director of the new law.
If SB 203 doesn't clean up the industry, there likely will be more legislation in 2008.
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A different kind of "sunrise-sunset". Colorado's obsolete daylight savings time statute, CRS 2-4-109, mentioned in an earlier column, has been revised in HB 1367 to reflect the congressional revision. Future changes won't have to be revised since the words "or such other times and days as may, from time to time, be designated by act of Congress" has been added.
(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.)
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