- Report Published -
|Local Government Issues Related to Neglected or Abandoned For-Profit Cemeteries|
|Commission on Local Government|
|SJR 319 (Regular Session, 1997)|
|Pursuant to the request set forth in Senate Joint Resolution 319, the Commission on Local Government, in cooperation with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Virginia Association of Counties, the Virginia Municipal League, and the Virginia Cemetery Association, examined "the local government issues related to the upkeep and maintenance of certain neglected or abandoned for-profit cemeteries." The resolution directed the Commission to exclude from its study not-for-profit private Cemeteries.|
As a consequence of its analysis of the issues, the Commission concluded that there exists a need (1) to strengthen the State's oversight of for-profit cemeteries, (2) to extend and refine measures to ensure the integrity and adequacy of the trust funds established by cemetery companies for the maintenance of their facilities, (3) to clarify and extend the authority of local government with respect to the operation and maintenance of cemeteries, and (4) to provide more effective means of protecting the public's interests.
The Commission's study also disclosed a disparity in the scope and nature of the law governing funeral homes and cemeteries in Virginia. The legal framework applicable to cemeteries is less extensive than that governing the operation of funeral homes in the State. The difference in the degree of public oversight of the two industries is relevant to the issues addressed in this study due to the emergence of corporate bodies that provide both funeral and cemetery services. Based upon this emerging reality and the interdependence of the two industries, the Commission concluded that a single State body should be established to oversee the functioning of both funeral homes and cemeteries in Virginia. To that end, the Commission proposes that the responsibility of the Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers be broadened to include the authority to oversee and regulate for-profit cemeteries, with the name and composition of that body being changed to reflect its expanded authority. With respect to the regulation of for-profit cemeteries, the Commission recommends that the restructured organization be given the authority (1) to register such facilities and their sales personnel, (2) to prescribe in detail the financial records to be maintained by cemetery operators, (3) to establish guidelines for use by commissioners of revenue in maintaining the integrity and adequacy of the trust funds created by cemeteries, and (4) to develop a model ordinance to guide local governments in the development of local ordinances for overseeing the operation and maintenance of burial grounds. Although the Commission recommends no general statewide increase in minimum trusting levels for cemeteries, it suggests that the General Assembly direct the proposed new State regulatory body or other appropriate entity to examine this issue at some point in the future.