Funeral Bill 2008
Jan. 14, 2008
By Jerry Kopel
Imagine a diamond-shaped traffic sign. Only it's blank.
At the top point is Gov . Bill Ritter, who will make the final decision.
At the bottom point is the Colorado Funeral Directors Association, whose
Sunrise application seeks licensing of funeral directors, embalmers,
cremationists, and mortuary science practitioners. Interns would be
The applicant would also like to have licensing "for any business that
provides goods or services for the public" and all "funeral
What is not mentioned is that if they were successful, Colorado would
have more licensing in this area of occupation than any other state or
Standing at the left point on the sign is Rep. Debbie Stafford (D),
heroine of the morticians, whose most recent regulatory bill on funerals
in 2007 would have only licensed mortuary science practitioners, who
happen to be persons skilled in all the other occupations: funeral
directors, embalmers, and cremationists.
At the right point on the sign is Rico Munn, Ritter's appointee and
director of the Dept. of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) whose research
report on the Funeral Directors application, gave in for registration of
one person at each funeral home, after DORA's quarter century decisions
of no licensing or certification or registration.
DORA states "it is clear that consumers are not utilizing the existing
laws to seek redress from funeral service practitioners who have
violated the law". Colorado's mortuary science code, CRS 12-54-101, et
seq., is one of the most strict consumer protection codes in the United
In addition, there are other protections provided by the Federal Trade
Commission, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the
Environmental Protection Agency, and the Americans With Disabilities
DORA continues: "It is unclear whether the consumers failed to realize
that existing laws are available to serve as protection to the public,
or the alleged violations are too emotionally painful to pursue via the
DORA recommends that its Division of Registrations "be directed to
implement a registration requirement for a designated funeral director
at each establishment.
The person "would be ultimately responsible for the establishment and
its employees adhering to the existing funeral service laws. If a
complaint of a violation of existing statutes is received, the division
should have the authority to investigate the alleged violation and, if
necessary, initiate formal disciplinary action, including ... fines,
against the registered Funeral Director."
In addition, DORA wants funeral homes to provide how to go about
contacting the Division to present a formal complaint.
Based on an extrapolation of data in the report, it appears Colorado
presently has about 1,150 persons involved in funeral services, who
would be licensed under the proposed law. According to the presenters of
the Sunrise application, on page 7 "practitioners who have had
difficulties in other states have relocated in Colorado", and "thereby
rendering consumers susceptible to harm by unregulated funeral service
In the past quarter century, proponents of licensing have consistently
hammered us with this allegation, which is a typical smear approach.
Disciplinary actions are generally public records in most states. Who
are these law breakers and why hasn't the Sunrise application sponsors
The Sunrise law differs from the Sunset law. Under Sunset, DORA presents
the recommendations to a standing committee which adopts all or some of
the suggestions to make up a bill, and the committee chairman appoints
the chief sponsor.
Under Sunrise, the applicant chooses a legislator to carry the measure,
and the sponsor determines what language to put in the bill, or leaves
that up to the applicant. It really doesn't matter how the language
starts out. What matters is the language presented at the end to the
governor. Will the governor stick with the modest recommendations of his
Why the consistent push for licensing? I think the real reason is "ego."
Imagine yourself from Colorado at a national gathering of funeral
people, most of them licensed professionals. You tell them you are from
Colorado, and they "sniff" and say "good luck" and walk away.
We don't license in Colorado to sooth egos. As DORA points out "the
evidence presented in this Sunrise review did not identify issues of
incompetent professionals working in the funeral service industry.
Instead the evidence, specifically the examples of harm provided,
exposed several instances where funeral service practitioners violated
How may times have you heard: "If it isn't broke, don't fix it" to which
I would add, "if its a scratch on the car door, add a little paint."
(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.)