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Yet another undertakers’ trade association is trying to take away families’ rights and outlaw lower-cost cremations.

The Divine Right of Undertakers?

UPDATE — 2/6/07 — Thanks to pressure from citizens and consumer groups, the Montana Judiciary Committee tabled HB 323 (that’s a euphemism for “Dead On Arrival”). Citizens and small crematory operators dodged a bullet, but if we hadn’t been vigilant, the results would have been disastrous. Let’s hope the funeral industry lobbyists think twice before trying to snatch away our rights to free choice and low-cost funerals.

1/30/2007 — Another state is dancing to the tune of a funeral director’s association, trying to shut down a low-cost crematorium that serves the public at moderate prices because the entrenched funeral directors don’t like the competition. This time it’s Montana. Though we’re glad there are some recent amendments proposed to House Bill 323 that would exempt families and clergy from the onerous requirement to be licensed as a mortician in order to conduct their own funerals and memorial services, the amendments don’t go nearly far enough. They’d still, in essence, outlaw low-cost crematoriums from doing business with the public, ensuring that overpriced funeral homes have an artificial lock on the market and a license to pick families’ pockets. Even worse, the sponsor of this bill will not answer Funeral Consumers Alliance’s queries. Instead, he’s sending our concerns quietly to the Montana Funeral Directors Association – the very trade group who proposed the bill we’re objecting to!

In summary, Montana’s House Bill 323:

  • Sets up a convoluted scheme to determine who has the right to make disposition arrangements and forces consumers to prepay a funeral home in exchange for the right to control their own future funerals. Twenty-nine other states have abandoned this model in favor of sensible rules.
  • Conflicts with current regulations allowing consumers and their representatives to change prepaid funeral plans if circumstances change.
  • Makes it illegal for families to care for their own dead at home, privately, and gives funeral businesses a legal right to the custody of a family’s dead loved ones.
  • Will put emerging low-cost funeral homes and free-standing crematoria out of business by making it illegal for them to remove dead bodies or perform other activities necessary to conduct their business and serve the public.
  • Flatly contradicts citizens’ First Amendment rights to free speech by making it illegal to communicate about anything to do with funeral or memorial services unless one holds a mortician’s license.
  • Would make it illegal for clergy or family members to organize or preside over funeral ceremonies or memorial services without a license.
  • Gives the Montana Board of Funeral Service dominion over the private activities of citizens and clergy far exceeding the authority granted regulatory boards by Montana statute.

Tomorrow, January 31, 2007, the House Judiciary Committe hears this bill. Funeral Consumers Alliance has sent letters opposing the bill to each member of the committee, and we hope they’ll listen to consumer concerns. Attached below find:

  • FCA summary opposing HB 323.
  • FCA line-by-line critique of the bill and what it would do to funeral prices and families’ rights.

So, What Can You Do?

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