By John T. McGough
Prepared by John T. McGough
Presented to the Board on July 17, 2012
The Ohio Legislature is on its summer recess and may not be back in session until after the November 6, 2012 General Election. Session dates are scheduled on November 14-15, November 27-29, December 4-5 and December 11-12. Tentative, “if needed” dates, are July 31, August 1-2; September 11-12, December 13 and December 18-19. The legislative session ends at the end of this December and any legislation that is not passed by the Legislature by the end of the year dies. The next two-year session will begin in January of 2013.
H.B. 481 passes House absent Alkaline Hydrolysis Licensure language
H.B. 481, introduced by Representative Bob Hackett (R-London), passed out of the House State Government & Elections Committee on May 8, 2012 and was passed by the House of Representatives on May 22, 2012 by a vote of 98-0 with the following changes/additions to Ohio’s funeral laws:
- Inactive Status. Establish a new procedure to allow funeral directors and embalmers to place their licenses on inactive status. The language requires that a funeral director or embalmer who has been on inactive status cannot return to the profession without first passing an Ohio funeral laws exam.
- Funeral Home License Applications. One issue that has arisen recently is the issue of funeral home license applications. Specifically, the issue arises 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”). The legislation permits a funeral home to continue to operate until the Board meets to review the new application.
- Courtesy Card License. The legislation allows the Board to issue Courtesy Card licenses to funeral directors in bordering states which would authorize them to conduct limited funeral related activities in Ohio. The Courtesy Card license could only be issued to a licensed funeral director in an adjoining state to Ohio. The adjoining state would also have to have a similar law authorizing 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 who are specially trained to provide assistance in natural disasters and emergencies when there may be significant casualties. The legislation authorizes funeral directors from other states to come to Ohio and work with Ohio funeral directors during a declared emergency.
- Cremation Identification. Due to a recent case involving a Columbus funeral home that relied upon a coroner’s mistaken identification in a cremation case, the legislation spells out a funeral home’s obligation to arrange an identification and the types of identification that satisfy Ohio law.
OFDA Legal Counsel, Scott Gilligan, provided proponent testimony in support of the legislation as did Joe Wilson, CEO of Bio-Response Solutions in support of the alkaline hydrolysis provisions which were in the introduced-version of the bill. However, due to some religious concerns with the licensure of alkaline hydrolysis that language was removed from the bill.
The legislation 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. Seven states currently authorize alkaline hydrolysis and there are bills pending in several other states to authorize the process. The legislation regulates alkaline hydrolysis very similar to how cremation is regulated in Ohio today. According to the Mayo Clinical (that performs alkaline hydrolysis on donated bodies) alkaline hydrolysis is not a combustion process and does not produce toxic gases or other environmental pollutants.
H.B. 481 has been referred to the Senate State & Local Government & Veterans Affairs Committee chaired by Kris Jordan (R-Powell). OFDA is working in the Senate to have the alkaline hydrolysis language re-inserted into the legislation. Other members of the Senate committee are:
S.B. 308 aides Funeral Homes
in obtaining Life Insurance Policy Information related to a Deceased
S.B. 308, introduced by Senator Tim Schaffer, amends Ohio Revised Code Section 3904.13 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 is the requirement that the 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 bill establishes a form that the person with the right of disposition under Ohio law can complete to authorize a funeral home to receive life insurance policy information relating to the deceased.
S.B. 308 has received both sponsor and proponent testimony in the Senate Insurance, Commerce & Labor Committee. OFDA Immediate-Past President, John Evans, and OFDA member Mike Schoedinger provided testimony in support of the bill on April 17, 2012.
On June 28, 2012, Senator Schaffer called a meeting of interested parties to discuss any concerns with the legislation. Representatives of the Association of Ohio Life Insurance Companies expressed concerns about being able to meeting the timelines in the bill and were concerned with possible liability exposure for failing to comply with the disclosure requirements in the bill. After further discussions, the insurers suggested the possibility of the Ohio Department of Insurance (ODI) issuing a Bulletin stating that under current Ohio law, life insurers are already authorized to respond to requests relating to the life insurance of a deceased. The life insurers’ association has made an initial inquiry with ODI about preparing a Bulletin and there appears to be interest in exploring this option further.
Omnibus Environmental Legislation
(S.B. 294) 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 has an effective date of September 5, 2012.
OFDA working with State Board on
further updates to Ohio Funeral Laws
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. Several of the issues may be considered as part of the next state budget which goes into effect on July 1, 2013. In addition, OFDA has drafted proposed language that would require a funeral home to either embalm or refrigerate a dead human body that has been held for 48 hours after death. There is the possibility that this language could be added to H.B. 481 if that bill continues to move through the legislative process this year.
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