Florida Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher said Floridians facing the need to buy funeral and cemetery services will have more choices and more protections under a bill, sponsored by Sen. Ken Pruitt (R-Port St. Lucie) and Rep. Don Brown (R-DeFuniak Springs), that passed the Legislature recently.
The Florida Funeral, Cemetery and Consumer Services Act, also called the “Howard Futch Bill” for the late senator whose body had to be relocated because of a burial mistake, passed out of final reading in the House of Representatives. The bill will require cemetery operators to survey and plot new grounds, establish minimum grave sizes, and put names on vaults. It also will establish a monument dealer inspection program, allow monument companies to join funeral homes, cemeteries and cremation service companies in the pre-need funeral services industry and consolidate the regulation of the industry under the Department of Financial Services, which Gallagher oversees.
“These measures aim at avoiding instances of misplaced, lost or unidentifiable graves that have caused some Florida families much grief and anxiety,” Gallagher said. “It also will give consumers more choices when shopping for funeral and cemetery services. I thank Sen. Pruitt and Rep. Brown for making the process of putting a loved one to rest a little easier.”
“Consolidating the regulation of the industry under one state agency should enhance oversight and give consumers access to comprehensive consumer information and assistance,” said Sen. Pruitt. “I appreciate the hard work of CFO Gallagher and his staff, Rep. Brown and all legislative members who helped get this measure passed.”
Rep. Brown agreed the bill also will simplify the investigation of complaints. “Consumers will have one place to turn to for help,” he said. “This bill places consumers first and ensures that surviving family members are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.”
The regulation of funeral and cemetery services had been spread between at least two agencies for years.
Oversight was divided between the Department of Business and Professional Regulations (DBPR) and the Department of Banking and Finance (DBF) until January 2003. That is when DBF merged with the former Department of Insurance to form the Department of Financial Services.
Now, the industry will be regulated under a newly created Division of Funeral, Cemetery and Consumer Services within the Department of Financial Services and under one new consolidated board of directors.
The consolidation, if signed by the governor, will become effective Oct. 1, 2005.
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