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Washington state legislature calls governor's bluff

      
judyfaaberg's picture
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Like most other states nationwide, Washington's in a world of hurt financially. Our governor has thus mandated a full review by all agencies of the boards and commissions under their authority. The goal is either elimination or consolidation.

Here in Washington as I've mentioned before we have two boards governing the death care profession. One is the Funeral Directors and Embalmers Board which licenses individuals and establishments, as well as monitoring funeral prearrangement trust activity. The Cemetery Board issues Authorities to Operate a Cemetery and also monitors cemetery prearrangement trusts. Both boards license crematories under equal administrative codes. Most parties have felt the two were apples and oranges.

Over the last decade we've fought off four attempts to merge the two boards. Neither our state funeral directors' association nor the Washington Cemetery & Funeral Association were interested in being monitored by the "other guys". Each attempt has resulted in better understanding between the Department of Licensing (DOL), which administers both our regulatory boards, and the two associations. Each attempt to draft acceptable legislation got closer to what we wanted if we had to accept merger, but we still didn't see the need for it. (P.S. both our boards are self-funded via regulatory fees and our operating funds don't even filter through the state's general funds.)

I imagine similar little political dramas have played out across agencies statewide.

Knowing this governor's mandate was going to force us to talk about merger yet again DOL's staff has drawn up a merger proposal using our input over the years and come up with a proposal we can swallow if we have to.

This morning, a state representative dropped an interesting and subversive bill into the hopper: It eliminates ALL boards and commissions statewide. Tout Finis. You want boards and commissions eliminated? You got it, Babe.

Some of us maliciously kind of secretly hope it happens just for the fun of observing the fallout.

Elimination is unlikely, right?

Bizarre situation up there, but you all have had to contend with some strange political stuff at the state level going on a few years now. It will be interesting to follow this new bill.

judyfaaberg's picture

Private?

Joe, how does this "private" thing work?
Judy Faaberg, DP, CCP

Try it out

Go to "Create Content" at top and form a group - anything you want, like "Custom Wine Labels" or WCFA.

On the checkboxes, choose a membership workflow, then uncheck "list in groups directory" and check "Private".

Voila, there will be a group with its own Forum. There may be other settings to mess with but I've only done a couple so might have to traverse the learning curve with you. Then when posting a comment, you can choose the "OG Groups Settings" to decide if the comment should be publicly visible or only visible to group members.

Obviously I need to draft an instruction document for the whole groups thing and this would be a key part of that...

judyfaaberg's picture

obviously I need to figure out what you just said!

I will mess about with this tomorrow.

Judy Faaberg, DP, CCP

judyfaaberg's picture

Further update on the merger bill

Well, nevermind. We finally out-bluffed ourselves, or something. The Washington state Cemetery Board and the state Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers are now officially merged into one big dysfunctional family. It will be interesting to see how it goes.

What hath the legislature wrought? What in the world will happen when funeral directors sit in judgment of cemetery authorities in disciplinary actions? Will life go on when cemeterians sit in judgment of funeral directors and embalmers? Listen:

FYI, in Washington state, funeral directors and/or embalmers are required to obtain professional licenses and maintain them with continuing education. Cemeteries are regulated as entities, called "cemetery authorities," rather than as individuals.

There's a long-standing feud amongst the professions (this really isn't a secret to you, of course): some funeral directors/embalmers look down their patrician noses at cemeterians, viewing them as dusty, ignorant hayseeds out digging holes, while some cemeterians sneer at the stiff-suited pasty-skinned pinhead funeral directors as being afraid of a hard day's work.Now, notice the operative word here really is "SOME".

In Washington, as I've mentioned before, the association I manage, formerly the Washington Interment Association, realized about 15 years ago just how obsolete and self-destructive those attitudes were. Not only for our profession, but more importantly, for the families we serve. As it did for the former ACA, the light dawned for us and we acknowledged the truth: we're all one in the professional pursuit of helping families with the important healing ritual called "memorialization." Thus was born the Washington Cemetery & Funeral Association. [note: there is still a Washington State Funeral Directors Association whose membership consists solely of funeral directors and embalmers.]

Why were most of us (in both associations) still against the merger bill, though? If we see ourselves as one unified death care profession, why not be regulated by a single board?

Well, see paragraph three above. Funeral directors vs. cemeteries. The following is directly cut and pasted from the bill as sent to the governor for signature.

"Three members of the board must be persons who have had experience in the active administrative management of a cemetery authority or as a member of the board of directors of a cemetery authority for a period of five years preceding appointment. Three members of the board must each be licensed in this state as funeral directors and embalmers and must have been continuously engaged in the practice as funeral directors and embalmers for a period of five years preceding appointment. One member must represent the general public and may not have worked in or received any substantive financial benefit from the funeral or cemetery industry. Board members must be a resident of the state of Washington."

Further,

"A quorum of the board to consider any charges brought under this chapter must include two of the funeral director and embalmer members of the board. A quorum of the board to consider any charges brought under Title 68 RCW must include two of the members who have had experience in the active administrative management of a cemetery authority. If board members cannot serve due to a conflict of interest, a quorum constituting a majority of the members must preside over the hearing."

So here's where the objections have always come in. We're a small state, relatively speaking, and the possibility of a "conflict of interest" arising is not inconsiderable. Example: SCI owns a LOT of cemeteries and funeral homes here. A board member who is an SCI employee would naturally have to recuse him or herself in the case of any disciplinary action being brought against an SCI employee or property. Likewise, if the action were being brought against a direct competitor. There goes your balancing act of a majority of funeral directors hearing cases against funeral directors, or of cemeterians hearing cases against cemeteries.

There are other procedural problems and certainly slippery-slope scenarios but we couldn't seem to make it a big enough issue this year and ... BAM. We're merged. Will it be as tasty as an Emeril Lagasse BAM...?

Of course we will try to make the best of it and maybe it won't be such a big deal after all. But as long as humans are prone to error, errors will be made. As long as humans remain greedy, temptation will surely cause trust funds to be pillaged. Disciplinary actions will be held. And no man or woman in the profession will be safe.

Judy Faaberg, DP, CCP