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Call to Action - December 9, 2010

      
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CALL TO ACTION

December 9, 2010

H.R. 3655, the Bereaved Consumers Rights Act is Headed for a House Vote!

You should immediately email the U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader's Office at terry.lierman@mail.house.gov and make the following points in your own words:

  • "HR 3655 is a highly controversial bill throughout the Deathcare Industry and we oppose it.
  • Efforts are being made to combine HR 3655 with the Arlington Cemetery bills, either S. 3860 or HR 6496.
  • This violates House Rules on germaneness and while we take no position on the Arlington Cemetery bills we protest efforts to pass HR 3655 either as a stand-alone bill or combined with other legislation."

Please send your e-mail immediately because events on Capitol Hill are moving quickly.


Background from ICCFA Lobbyist Paul Quinn:

The House Majority Leader's office has confirmed that there are discussions underway that could lead to linking HR 3655 The Bereaved Consumer's Bill of Rights Act of 2010 to S 3860 [or the new H.R. 6496] the Arlington Cemetery bill which passed the Senate on Saturday, December 4th. It is essential that ICCFA members alert those members of the House who are opposed to the enactment of HR 3655 of this threat and urge them to make their opposition known to the House Republican Leadership.

As you know, the report to accompany HR 3655 was filed yesterday and contains very strong dissenting views filed on behalf of the ranking Republican (Rep. Joe Barton—TX) on the Committee and most of his senior colleagues opposing enactment of the bill and I have been in touch with staff of the dissenting members to alert them of the attempt to tie these two unrelated proposals together. Under House rules this effort should be a violation of the germaneness test and we should urge that this issue be raised along with other arguments against it.

Should the Democratic Leadership in the House attempt to pass HR 3655 either on a stand alone basis or as part of an amended version of S3860 it would have to get a rule from the Rules Committee or pass it on Suspension of the Rules which would require a 2/3 vote. Since the Rules Committee is unlikely to take up and new business other than a major spending bill or the tax package the real threat comes from Suspension so the more we can demonstrate the controversial nature of the bill and extent of the opposition to it the better.

 


 

Statement of Republican Dissent on HR 3655

Please feel free to refer to the following statement opposing HR 3655:

DISSENTING VIEWS
We sympathize with the intent of H.R. 3655 to provide a federal response to the tragic events discovered at the Chicago Burr Oaks Cemetery (Burr Oaks) in Alsip, Illinois. We support meaningful and effective federal consumer protection when the evidence shows that States cannot effectively regulate. However, we believe the isolated events at Burr Oaks do not show any need for federal regulation. The record indicates that Illinois addressed these events aggressively and adequately, and that this type of misconduct does not occur frequently. Indeed, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports only a fraction of one percent of the more than 1.3 million consumer complaints it received in 2009 related to funeral services.

Additionally, we do not believe this legislation is good policy nor do we believe it will effectively deter the types of actions that occurred at Burr Oaks. We see no evidence that requiring additional disclosures to consumers and recordkeeping would deter actions such as occurred in 2009. Criminal prosecution of these and similar acts provide a far more effective deterrent to illegal disinterment. Extending the current disclosure legislation under the FTC's 'Funeral Rule' to cemeteries and requiring new disclosures by those currently subject to the Funeral Rule would increase regulatory and compliance costs with little or no associated consumer benefit.

During Committee consideration of H.R. 3655, an exemption for religious non-profit organizations was passed. The majority of cemeteries in the United States are run by municipalities and religious organizations. Republicans offered separate amendments to exempt the religious and municipally operated cemeteries and funeral homes and restore their statutory exemption from regulation by the FTC. Unfortunately, the Majority only accepted the amendment exempting religious organizations from H.R. 3655. This leaves all the municipalities that own or operate cemeteries subject to federal law and FTC enforcement for the first time, even though the record does not include any persuasive evidence that this would prevent the types of actions that occurred at Burr Oaks or otherwise benefit consumers.

There is also the issue of federalism to address. We find evidence demonstrating that the States can effectively regulate their cemeteries and funeral providers. When incidents suggesting the need for additional regulations do occur--as with Burr Oaks and a few others with similar but rare problems--States have responded quickly with investigations, prosecutions, and additional regulations as they felt appropriate to address their respective situations. We believe Congress should only consider the larger question of whether the FTC should have jurisdiction over any non-profit when it reauthorizes the FIC rather than on a piecemeal, ad hoc basis.

Finally, we note that the bill would impose an extremely broad obligation on cemeteries to keep all their records indefinitely. This draconian recordkeeping provision would likely impose extensive costs with little or no benefit for consumers or law enforcement.

For these reasons, we, the undersigned, cannot support H.R. 3655.

  • Joe Barton
  • Marsha Blackburn
  • Tim Murphy
  • Phil Gingrey
  • Joseph R. Pitts
  • Robert E. Latta
  • John Shimkus
  • Cliff Stearns
  • Lee Terry

 

 

For more info, please call ICCFA General Counsel Bob Fells at 703-391-8401