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May 24, 2024

Governor Signs Bipartisan Bills to Increase Protections in the Funeral Home Industry, Prevent More Tragedy

DENVER, CO – Today Governor Jared Polis signed into law a pair of bipartisan bills to increase protections in the funeral home industry and prevent more tragedy.

“Enough is enough. It is long past time for funeral tragedies in our state to stop. Coloradans should be able to trust the services being provided during the most difficult moments of their families’ lives - but too often in Colorado, our state’s lack of oversight results in tragedy instead,” said Roberts, sponsor of SB24-173 and HB24-1335. “We worked hard this year to correct that. These new laws put in place stronger oversight that will hold funeral homes and crematories to a higher standard, and require folks who work in the industry to be licensed and in good standing. Combined, the laws will help restore faith in this valuable industry and ensure that Coloradans’ remains are handled with the care, dignity, and respect they deserve.”

“Until today, we were the only state in the nation that did not require proper licensure for funeral professionals – these bills will help us ensure that our state’s funeral homes and crematories are operated by professionals only with the utmost respect and care,” said Titone, sponsor of SB24-173 and HB24-1335. “These bipartisan bills will expand and extend the Department of Regulatory Agencies’ ability to inspect funeral homes and crematories as well as require proper oversight from licensed professionals. Colorado has unfortunately been at the center of many egregious instances of fabricated cremation records and the mishandling of bodies. Funeral homes and crematories must operate within the law – our public health and safety depends upon it and our loved ones deserve it.”

SB24-173, sponsored by Senators Dylan Roberts, D-Frisco, and Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, and Representatives Brianna Titone, D-Arvada, and Matt Soper, R-Delta, establishes licensure of funeral professionals in Colorado. Introduced following numerous tragedies at funeral homes and crematories across Colorado, the new law aligns Colorado with the 49 other states that already require education and licensure for those who work as funeral directors, mortuary scientists, cremationists, and embalmers. 

Colorado is the only state in the nation without licensure for directors and employees of the funeral industry, and this lack of oversight and training has resulted in numerous tragic cases of funeral home mismanagement, mistreatment of human remains, and hundreds of impacted family members. 

SB24-173 requires an individual to obtain a license to practice as a funeral director, a mortuary science practitioner, an embalmer, a cremationist, or a natural reductionist starting January 1, 2027. To be eligible for a license, a person must have graduated from an accredited educational institution for that profession, passed the national board examination, completed an apprenticeship, and passed a criminal background check. 

Those currently working in the industry will be able to obtain a provisional license by showing they have worked at least 4,000 hours in the field, received the requisite workplace learning experience, passed a criminal background check, and will be subsequently eligible to qualify for full licensure.

The Governor also signed into law HB24-1335, which extends and expands regulations of the Mortuary Science Code, helping avoid future tragedies caused in part by a lack of oversight by the state.

Sponsored by Roberts, Gardner, Titone, and Soper, the new law also:

  • Requires inspection of funeral homes and crematories on a routine basis, including after businesses have ceased operations;

  • Allows inspections to occur outside business hours;

  • Expands rulemaking authority for DORA;

  • Adds failure to respond to complaints as grounds for discipline; and 

  • Authorizes DORA to suspend the registration for persons who do not comply with orders following a complaint or investigation.

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