Prepared by John T. McGough
The Ohio Legislature completed its two-year legislative session during the second week of December and will begin a new two-year session in January of 2013. It is anticipated that much of the first six months of the session will be focused on Governor Kasich’s biennial budget proposal that will fund state government for the period July 1, 2013 – June 30, 2015.
Below is a summary of the legislative and regulatory activities during the 2011-2012 legislative session that impact Ohio’s funeral industry.
OFDA-supported H.B. 481 enacted into Ohio law
(Alkaline Hydrolysis licensure language removed)
OFDA is pleased to report that H.B. 481 was passed into law in December and will become effective on March 22, 2013. H.B. 481 was introduced by Representative Bob Hackett (R-London) and made the following changes/additions to Ohio’s funeral laws:
- Inactive Status. Establishes a new procedure to allow funeral directors and embalmers to place their licenses on inactive status. However, a once a licensee goes on inactive status their license cannot be reinstated for a minimum of two years. To have a license reinstated a funeral director or embalmer must first pass an Ohio funeral laws exam before returning to the profession.
- Funeral Home License Applications. This provision addresses the issue when an existing funeral home is sold and the new owner files a new funeral home license application with the State Board of Embalmers & Funeral Directors (hereinafter “the Board”). H.B. 481 permits a funeral home to continue to operate until the Board meets to review and act upon the new application.
- Courtesy Card License. Authorizes the Board to issue Courtesy Card licenses to funeral directors in bordering states to conduct limited funeral related activities in Ohio. These limited activities include filing death certificates, obtaining burial and cremation permits, and the supervision and conducting of funeral ceremonies and interments in Ohio. The Courtesy Card license could only be issued to a licensed funeral director in a bordering state to Ohio. The provision only applies if the bordering state authorizes Ohio funeral directors to conduct limited funeral related activities in their state.
- Emergency License. Funeral directors across the country have been involved through the years in state or federal declared emergencies. In fact, many states including Ohio have Mortuary Response Teams that are specially trained to provide assistance in natural disasters and emergencies when there may be significant casualties. H.B. 481 authorizes funeral directors from other states to come to Ohio and work with Ohio funeral directors during a declared emergency or disaster.
- Cremation Identification. In response to a recent case involving a Columbus funeral home that relied upon a coroner’s mistaken identification in a cremation case, H.B. 481 spells out a funeral home’s obligation to conduct a proper identification of the deceased, but not be the guarantor of the results of the identification process. Funeral homes would be required to have a family member or representative identify the decedent in person or by photograph, or if that is not feasible, then by an alternative identification method, such as through the coroner’s office. However, if a third party made a mistake in the identification process, funeral home personnel would not be held accountable as long as the funeral home had arranged an appropriate identification under the law.
- Embalming/Refrigeration of deceased body. This provision will insure that funeral homes are appropriately holding a dead human body prior to final disposition by requiring that the body be either embalmed or placed in refrigeration within 48 hours. This provision is consistent with laws in approximately 30 other states.
H.B. 481 (as introduced) would have authorized the State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors to license and regulate alkaline hydrolysis facilities. Alkaline hydrolysis is another disposition choice in addition to burial and cremation. Nine states currently authorize alkaline hydrolysis as a disposition option.
During the short “lame duck” legislative session after the November general election, the Catholic Conference of Ohio formally opposed the inclusion of alkaline hydrolysis in H.B. 481 in a letter which included the following inflammatory statement: “Dissolving bodies in a vat of chemicals and pouring the resultant liquid down the drain is not a respectful way to dispose of human remains.” Their opposition resulted in legislative leaders determining that there needed to be further evaluation of this issue.
S.B. 308 - Life Insurance Policy Information related to a Deceased
(OFDA/AOLIC seek Ohio Department of Insurance Bulletin)
S.B. 308, introduced by Senator Tim Schaffer, proposed to amend Ohio law to require life insurers to disclose a deceased’s personal information to a funeral home for the limited purpose of planning a funeral and disposition of a deceased. One of the key provisions of this legislation was the requirement that a life insurer provide life insurance policy information within one business day. This is because in most cases, within 24 hours of death the funeral home and the deceased’s family are finalizing the details of the funeral and disposition. The legislation would have created a form that the person with the right of disposition under Ohio law could complete to authorize a funeral home to receive life insurance policy information relating to the deceased.
After sponsor and proponent committee hearings on the legislation, representatives of the life insurance industry commented that current Ohio law already authorizes the disclosure of life insurance information to a funeral home if authorized by a beneficiary and that an Ohio Department of Insurance (ODI) Bulletin could possibly be prepared to help clarify this issue for the benefit of all interested parties.
Senator Schaffer then called a meeting of interested parties to discuss any concerns with the legislation and as a result of the meeting he determined that requesting a Bulletin from ODI was an appropriate next step. During the past several months OFDA has been working with the Association of Ohio Life Insurance Companies (AOLIC) to submit draft language for ODI’s consideration. The language has been submitted and we are awaiting a formal response from ODI.
S.B. 294 - Omnibus Environmental Legislation Enacted into Law
(Preserves Infectious Waste Small Generator Exemption)
Senator Tim Schaffer introduced S.B. 294 which includes significant updates and changes to Ohio’s environmental laws. With respect to the disposal of infectious wastes, the bill preserves the ability of infectious waste generators (including funeral homes and embalming facilities) that produce fewer than 50 pounds of infectious waste in any one month to transport and dispose of such wastes in the same manner as solid wastes.
The bill has been signed into law by Governor Kasich and became effective date of September 5, 2012.
State Board of Embalmers & Funeral Directors proposes several fee increases to be included in upcoming Biennial State Budget
During the past few months OFDA has been meeting with representatives of the State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors relating to updates to Ohio’s funeral laws. Some of the issues may be considered as part of the next state biennial budget which goes into effect on July 1, 2013.
One of the major priorities of the State Board is to increase licensure fees. According to the State Board the fees have not been increased for eleven years. The additional funding would be used to hire 2 additional inspectors (there are currently two inspectors) so that all facilities can be inspected once a year. There are approximately 1184 licensed funeral homes, 113 crematories and 3 embalming facilities. It is estimated that one inspector could inspect 325 facilities per year. Inspectors are also involved with investigations and apprentices.
Fees would increase by 25% for individual licenses and 50% for facility licenses. Below is a listing of the proposed fee increases:
- Initial and renewal for embalmer’s and funeral director licenses: Increase from $140 to $175.
- Issuance of embalmer or funeral director registration: Increase from $25 to $32.
- Filing an embalmer or funeral director certificate of apprenticeship: increase from $10 to $13.
- Application for embalmer or funeral director exam: Increase from $35 to $44.
- Initial and renewal of funeral home license: Increase from $250 to $375.
- Reinstatement of embalmer or funeral director lapsed license: Payment of renewal fee and penalty increase from $50 to $63 per month until reinstated.
- Reinstatement of funeral home, embalming facility or crematory lapsed license: Payment of renewal fee plus a penalty increase from $50 to $75 per month until reinstated with a maximum of $1,000.
- Initial and renewal for embalming facility or crematory license: Increase from $200 to $300.
- Issuance of a duplicate license: Increase from $4 to $6.
The State Board also recommends disbanding the Crematory Review Board as being duplicative to the authority the Board already has to regulate crematories.
Another budget proposal from the State Board is to authorize the Board’s executive director and staff to enter the premises of any licensed facility under the Board’s jurisdiction to inspect the facility and premises. The Board’s stated intent for the expanded authority is to be able to continue the work of the Board when an inspector may be sick, on vacation or absent due to some other form of leave.