Mortuary Licensing and
Debbie Stafford's Party Switch
Oct. 27, 2007
By Jerry Kopel
Two words were missing.
When Rep. Debbie Stafford, former Republican, now a member of the
Democratic party, switched parties on Oct. 11th, 2007, articles about the
press conference stressed her concern for health care reform, education,
and juvenile justice reform.
What wasn't mentioned in the articles? Mortuary licensing.
Rep. Stafford has been like me, obsessive as a legislator. That is not a
bad trait, especially when she is also a very smart lady.
If you look at the Colorado Press Directory of 2005-06 ( the last one
published ) under AGENDA, number one agenda for Rep. Stafford is "Funeral
industry standards of practice".
On Oct. 21, a major Denver newspaper reported Rep. Stafford had stated
"she will focus in 2008 on passing bills to regulate the funeral
The last Stafford bill on the subject was introduced in 2007 as HB 1231.
It added eight sections to present law and dealt with licensing,
certification, and registration for industry occupations, and modest
health protection changes to other present funeral statute language.
With every funeral occupation except mortuary science practitioners, HB
1231 permitted persons having met a certain number of hours of practice to
be "grandfathered" in without additional testing.
Unlike other occupations seeking licensing, there was no need to establish
consumer protections. They are already in Colorado law. The protections
were left in the statute (under a subsequent bill which I sponsored) when
the mortuary industry was no longer licensed as of July 1,1982. Rep.
Stafford deserves credit for an excellent job of modernizing those
HB 1231 went to House Business Affairs Committee on Feb. 1. The committee
killed the bill on Feb. 23rd. Death of the bill required a new application
under the Sunrise law for consideration of licensing an occupation by the
legislature. That did happen.
On or about Dec. 6th, the Dept. of Regulatory Agencies will issue a new
review and recommendation on "Funeral Service Practitioners".
I don't know what their recommendations will be, but after several
negative studies, mortuary board repeal arrived on July 1, 1982, and all
attempts to restore licensing over the past quarter century, have failed
based on negative recommendations. In 2006, a bill did pass, but was
vetoed by then-Gov. Bill Owens.
Her 2007 bill would have moved the oversight of the funeral industry away
from the Dept. of Regulatory Agencies (which has oversight over doctors,
nurses, dentists, midwives and other health professionals) to the Dept. of
Public Health. This makes sense from the view of a proponent, since the
Regulatory Agency research arm has consistently opposed Stafford's
mortuary licensing bills.
Proponents of licensing point out Colorado is the only state that does not
license the occupations in the industry, but often fail to mention that
Colorado protections for mortuary consumers are much stricter than most
The recent arrest of a Colorado Springs funeral home owner alleged she
sold funeral plans without following the contract requirements, as well as
other alleged crimes. Obviously, she was discovered and charged without
the need of passage of HB 1231.
This columnist does not doubt the credibility of Rep. Stafford's problems
with Republican leadership as the major basis for changing parties, but
the change will likely increase her chances of success with the newest
version of HB 1231.
I will keep you up to date on the new study and the new bill sponsored by
Rep. Stafford (D).
* * *
There are pluses and there are minuses, and Colorado is still on the plus
side when it comes to economic momentum.
Sourcebook, a subsidiary of Governing magazine, has published a
percentage of economic momentum for each state. The numbers, according to
Sourcebook, average a most recent one-year change ion employment, personal
income and population, and relate each state's performance to the national
average set at zero.
Twenty-eight of the 50 states had a minus momentum. Colorado had a gain of
0.6 percent which placed our state eleventh of the 50 states. This was the
same percentage for 2006, when we placed 13th.
Most of the top states were in the near west, just as they were last year.
These were plus percentages: Arizona, first with 2.6; Utah, second with
2.4; Wyoming, third with 2.2; Idaho, fourth with 1.9; and Nevada, fifth
Of course, Louisiana was above every other state with 3.5, but that
followed the hurricane disaster where Louisiana ranked 50th with a minus
4.8. Louisiana is doing better, but is still economically down.
The northeast and the New England states were all in minus numbers. Rhode
Island, 1.0; Vermont, 1.0; Maine, 0.9; New Hampshire, 0.8; Massachusetts,
0.7; Pennsylvania, 0.7; Connecticut, 0.7; Maryland, 0.6; New Jersey, 0.6;
New York, 0.5; Virginia, 0.4; and Delaware, 0.0.
As with many other trends, the statistics consistently point to a decline
in the east and a vitality in the near west.
(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.)