New Deathcare Legislation in Colorado, South Dakota, and Nebraska

Funeral Industry News March 2, 2022

New Deathcare Legislation in Colorado, South Dakota, and Nebraska

This month three states introduced legislation that impacts deathcare professionals. Here are the details:

Colorado bill permits surprise inspections

Last week Colorado’s House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed House Bill 1073. If the bill passes the state Senate, it will allow inspections of funeral homes and crematories without first getting an operator’s permission to enter the premises.

The bill was initiated after two deathcare scandals rocked the state. The first, the now infamous horrors allegedly committed by the owners Sunset Mesa Funeral Home, resulted in the arrest of its owner, Megan Hess, and her mother Shirley Koch. Their trial has been postponed to August 2022. The second nightmarish event involved Lake County Coroner Shannon Kent, whose trial on charges that include abuse of a corpse is also scheduled for August.  

According to a recent news report, investigators were repeatedly turned away when they tried to enter both Sunset Mesa and Kent’s Bailey-Kent Funeral Homes to follow up on complaints.  

The bill was opposed by 10 Republicans who argued that it “was unnecessary because law enforcement can enter funeral homes if they get a warrant.” However, the bill’s sponsors argued that not all complaints are criminal, and “receiving probable cause for the prior criminal acts required entry to the premises.” 

South Dakota bill clarifies who decides on body disposition

In an effort to clarify “some of the weakest laws in the nation” regarding body disposition decisions, South Dakota last week introduced House Bill 1152. If the bill passes the Senate, it will enact eight sections of legal language to specify how bodies are handled after death. It will make changing preneed disposition decisions more difficult and clearly defines the order in which at-need decisions can be made.

South Dakota funeral director Mitch Steinhoff of Eidsness Funeral Home seems pleased with the proposed legislation.

“The biggest thing is that the law has just been outdated for some time, and the law the way it reads now is very vague on a lot of issues,” Sheinhoff told the Rapid City Journal. “This will really clean it up and give us direct law on how things have to happen.” 

In addition to reducing the number of disposition disputes (and therefore cutting down on disposition-related civil lawsuits), the law will give funeral directors immunity in cases of disputes and allow for disposal of unclaimed remains.

Nebraska bill would make it easier to become a funeral director

A Nebraska senator has introduced bill LB 704 to encourage more folks to enter the deathcare profession — and he brought jokes.

“Contrary to popular belief,” Sen. Matt Williams told a local Omaha news outlet, “this is not a business that people are dying to get into.”

The bill would increase the number of hours a student would have to spend in the business, but decrease the number of hours required to study mortuary science and chemistry. Specific changes to these hours weren’t noted in the news coverage, but current licensing requirements can be found here.