- Report Published -
|Report on the Regulation of Nonprofit Cemeteries|
|Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation; Board for Professional and Occupational Regulation|
|HJR 745 (Regular Session, 1999)|
|House Joint Resolution 745 requested the Board for Professional and Occupational Regulation (the Board) in conjunction with the Virginia Cemetery Board and the Virginia Cemetery Association (VCA) study the extent to which consumers experience dissatisfaction with products and services provided by cemeteries other than those regulated by the state and the means available for protecting the interests of consumers who engage the services of non- regulated cemeteries. This report will explain the methodology used in studying this issue and the information gleaned in the study process. It will summarize the public comment provided to the Board, and conclude with recommendations to the Governor and the General Assembly.|
The Board recognizes that the various discussions of cemeteries and their upkeep are matters that may stir great interest and intense concern. Throughout this study process, the Board attempted to follow its statutory authority in § 54.1-310 A of the Code of Virginia to determine whether the public interest requires that these cemeteries be regulated by the state. The Code of Virginia clearly states that government regulation of any business or profession should be implemented only when necessary for public protection. While other principles regarding the maintenance and preservation of cemeteries may need to be addressed, and private interests are certainly encouraged to do so, public protection is the responsibility of state government.
Based on the General Assembly's request that the Board address consumer dissatisfaction, the Board contacted numerous consumer groups in Virginia to solicit their comments through public hearings and/or written comments. The Board received only five comments that expressed concern or dissatisfaction with three cemeteries. Information received from the Office of Consumer Affairs at the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services revealed that less than twenty percent of the complaints received in the previous four years were filed against cemeteries that are the subject of this study.
The Board did receive numerous comments from church-related cemeteries. Such comments not only opposed any state regulation, but also questioned whether such state regulatory measures would implicate and infringe upon the rights to religious freedom that are afforded in the Virginia and Federal Constitutions. Many municipal cemeteries also opposed state regulation based on the argument that few complaints have been filed and that local government can provide the necessary public protection.
The Virginia Cemetery Board and the Virginia Cemetery Association raised several issues and concerns regarding the cemeteries that are not subject to Section 54.1-2310 et seq. of the Code of Virginia. These issues and concerns are outlined in the report. While the Board agrees that some of these issues should be addressed, the Board concludes that further state regulation is not the appropriate response at this time. Based on the dearth of consumer complaints or concerns regarding the operation of these cemeteries, the Board can only conclude that for the most part, consumers are not dissatisfied with the goods and services received at nonprofit, church-related, municipal, city, state or other cemeteries and to the limited extent there are manifestations of dissatisfaction they fall far short of the threshold for state regulation. In addition, certain problems, whether documented or alleged, may not be prevented, remedied or otherwise addressed by requiring these cemeteries to be licensed under the Cemetery Act. Absent consumer outcry, the Board finds that state regulation of these cemeteries could mean unnecessary government interference for some cemeteries, and in the case of church-related cemeteries, could imperil First Amendment rights to the free exercise of religious practices.