Advocacy

 

April 7, 2020

VFDA Legislative Update

Good Day again VFDA members. This is my second in my series of letters regarding the 2020 legislative session. Today I will address our plans for legislation during the 2021 session. Some of you have given suggestions, which I will address in this letter.

NEXT OF KIN – We chose in the latter part of 2019 to delay our Next of Kin Legislation until the 2021 Session. Our work post-session on this bill has changed some due to COVID-19, but once it clears up, we are springing back in action. Our patrons were kind enough to take a step back due to the broad ranging legislation from this past session. We had commitments from Delegate Mark Sickles and Senator Creigh Deeds to patron this legislation, but we chose to back off of it for this year. We will revisit this current year and have ready for 2021. We may continue to use both patrons, or change patrons if it will bolster our position. Anyone who wants a refresher of the current text we are using are welcome to read it as written. I will happily email it to you for your review.

AMENDING DEATH CERTIFICATES – Each Funeral Service Licensee in Virginia has made a mistake on a death certificate or has been given incorrect information by the family. Many times, even with the demographic preview built into the EDRS, the mistake isn’t noticed until the certified copies have been made. That leads us to the amendment process…which we all dread.

A VFDA member brought this issue to the Legislative Committee and brought a solution to consider. The idea is to allow for any correction to be made with supporting documentation within the first 30 days after the death certificate is filed to alleviate the necessity for court ordered amendments. That being said, part of this process is full utilization of the e-amendment section of the EDRS. We should be required to upload all supporting documents into the EDRS for review. But instead of having to mail the application, we should be able to upload a notarized affidavit form with the documentation and not have to mail everything to the Office of Vital Records. Additionally, we should be allowed to pay the amendment fee upon pickup of the new copies. When we take our copies to swap to your local health department office, payment could be made at that time. Without payment, new copies would not be released to the funeral home staff member. Again, because most all mistakes are caught within the first few days, changes should be able to be made without involving the court system to expedite the process and minimize the cost funeral homes are experiencing when working with their lawyers.

COMMUNICABLE DISEASE NOTIFICATION – As we work through the COVID-19 uncertainty, a member asked us to look into legislation requiring the cause of death be given when the first call is taken, when a communicable disease is the cause of death. Lacy researched the HIPAA Code regarding this information and found that all hospitals have the option, but not the obligation to release that kind of information. We have found that our local hospital will place colored stickers on the body bag prior to pick up alerting of a communicable disease, but have not always been the best about requiring the information to be given at the time of the call. This is something Angie Bezik and I have spoken about for a possible pathway to a change. Her suggestion is to work with the Office of the Governor directly to see if he would have interest in this legislation, as he is a Medical Doctor. This is obviously front and center with everyone right now, with the possible widespread effects of COVID-19. It seems like now more than ever we need to be better informed to protect our staff members.

I also wanted to open the floor for ideas of things you may want to see with legislation. There is a pretty solid chance that if you are seeing a particular issue, so is someone else. As has always been the case, please submit ideas to the committee for review. We will discuss and report back to you our findings. Over the past two sessions we have taken ideas submitted by members and they have both passed unanimously. So, we are listening. I hope you will please submit ideas going forward. (Please keep in mind that in this short session, the limited number of bills each legislator will be able to submit for drafting and prefile, and the truncated ability to meet with legislators due to the health crisis.)

Thanks,

Jay McIntyre, CFSP
VFDA First Vice President
VFDA Legislative Committee Chair
Shenandoah Valley FDA Secretary
Licensed Funeral Director
McMullen Funeral Home


April 2, 2020

VFDA 2020 Legislative Happenings

Good Day Members. As promised, I am beginning a series of letters which will cover a broad area of topics. This first letter addresses the legislative happenings of the 2020 General Assembly Session. Angie gave a breakdown last week and I just want to follow up with some further information. As I mentioned in my letter earlier this week, the membership will be kept fully in the loop about the goings on of the legislative committee. And again, we ask that anyone who wishes to serve on that committee take the time to sign up and participate. I personally will review the members who choose to be on this committee and try to create committee partnerships. We have fantastic members who would thrive on this committee and possibly pairing them with another committee member to facilitate ideas from the local level I think is beneficial to us.

As many of you know SB1044 patroned by Senator Jeremy McPike created much stir and buzz. Many of you are in favor of the idea of creating a license that helps alleviate some of the labor concerns faced by our profession. Others of you, just as many as in favor, are opposed. This split amongst membership created much discussion. Because of the polarized nature of this bill, and the infighting this bill has created within our membership, the VFDA took a neutral stance. With the passage of this bill, the Governor has until April 11, 2020 to sign. At which time, the 280 day regulatory process begins by the State Board. The VFDA will have a seat at the table when it comes to figuring things out. If it gets that far. Based on the current state of the commonwealth and nation, and the uncertainties of where COVID-19 is going to take us, last week Angie Bezik and I spoke about what our options still may be. That being said, we sent a letter to the Governor asking for a veto of this legislation, and at a minimum a delay of at least one year before this matter is addressed. While this changes our position, we like everyone else have taken stock that now may not be the time for this change to occur. Certainly when resources and availability of folks to meet and work together for this change are very limited. We will keep you posted as to the result of our letter to Governor Northam.

Late in the fall, a member reached out to the VFDA asking for us to aid him in getting the law changed regarding veteran death certificates. As it was before, one copy was free for veterans, but only if the surviving family applied for the copy, and it was stamped with the wording “For Veteran Benefit Use Only”. Our aim was to allow the funeral director the ability to get this copy for the family and remove the wording. Delegate Terry Kilgore was more than happy to carry this legislation for the VFDA, on behalf of one of his constituents. While other states such as Tennessee and Kentucky may offer more copies at no charge, we find that families are requiring less certified copies than in the past, and this gives us a great starting point. Because of his excellent work on our behalf, the VFDA has chosen Delegate Kilgore as the 2020 Legislator of the Year.

HB641 is another controversial piece of legislation. Introduced by Delegate Chris Hurst, and on behalf of the Blue Ridge Funeral Alliance, this bill allows for the sale of caskets by anyone including preneed situations. The alliance argued that last year’s legislation was not in the best interest of the consumer, and was the funeral profession circling its wagons. This could not be further from the truth. VFDA worked hand in hand to ensure that the monies used were trusted in a proper funding source such as a Homesteaders or like preneed funding source. While HB641 says the same thing, there is no policing of this matter. If handled by a licensed funeral provider, there are repercussions if the funeral establishment does not properly and appropriately trust this money. This change also neglects to protect the Medicaid aspect that preneed offers. If this money is not appropriately trusted, it can be considered an asset and prevent Medicaid qualification. Additionally, if the provider were to go out of business and the money is not trusted, the consumer could very easily lose their money. The same scenario happened in the Richmond area about a decade ago with an Outer Burial Container company, and in North Carolina with casket suppliers. The Delegate did not fully understand the ripple that this bill causes. One member of the VFDA in particular has written a letter to his Senator and asked that the governor re-address this issue. I’m not sure at this point that it will matter as it was signed into law on March 3.

I wanted to quickly address the EDRS. Some of you have said that the Office of Vital Records (formerly Division of Vital Records) is not requiring doctors to sign electronically. That is incorrect. I spoke with Janet myself regarding this matter. She said that only in the three circumstances (family filing their own DC, Out of State Doctor, and a Technology/Power Outage) would paper death certificates be accepted by your local health department. If you still have doctors in your area resisting, please let us know. We as always will continue to address these issues.
Folks, coming out of the 2020 General Assembly Session, we have seen now more than ever that elections have consequences. The social agenda legislation was overwhelming this session. One of the major pieces of legislation that funeral homes will have to address, is the raising of the minimum wage. While some may already pay their folks $15 or more, some areas are unable to pay that kind of wage. So keep a close eye over the course of the next couple years as these changes occur.

As I mentioned, this is the first of a series of letters. My next letter will address the future plans we have for legislation, and also offer a comment period for any ideas we may be able to address. I look forward to continually updating the membership through the next weeks and months and will stay in touch as much as I can as we all work through the COVID-19 madness. I hope everyone remains safe and uses proper protection while we fight this invisible fight. Together we will all make it through it.

Thanks,

Jay McIntyre, CFSP
VFDA First Vice President
VFDA Legislative Committee Chair
Shenandoah Valley FDA Secretary
Licensed Funeral Director
McMullen Funeral Home


March 31, 2020

March 31, 2020

Good Day members. I hope that you are all staying safe and using the utmost protection during this COVID-19 chaos. The reason for this letter is to tell you about a series of letters and my Spring 2020 VFDA Bulletin Article. Through the winter season, we have heard that the VFDA has not been responsive enough to the members regarding Legislation and updating the members on a regular enough basis. As chair of the committee, I take those criticisms to heart, and while some of the things we heard I respectfully disagree with, I will do my best to raise the level of communication regarding such matters. That being said, it is of UTMOST IMPORTANCE that when communications are sent, that you open, read, and digest them.

The series of emails you will receive will break down a full legislative update you received from Angie Bezik and the VFDA on Friday. It details the results of all legislation relative to the funeral profession during the 2020 session. As we are well aware, there is quite a polarized stance on SB1044 and how things are going to happen. We still have much work to do going forward. I think you could potentially see a delay in the roll out of the change based on the postponement of the April 2020 Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers meeting. We are working to see what will happen with things and we will report any news as soon as we know.

Not only will I summarize our potential 2021 Legislative Agenda, we are asking for new faces to be a part of the committee for fresh ideas. As some of you may have noticed, our committee conference calls have basically stopped due to lack of participation. So with that said, if you are still interested, please offer to participate again, and if you have not yet joined a committee and wish to participate, please consider joining the legislative committee. We will hold two or maybe three conference calls in the summer/fall months leading up to the General Assembly session. During session, you will also get information about wording changes of any legislation and how we wish to respond.

You will all see two emails coming asking for input. They are relative to some future legislation and we want to make sure the issues you have faced and are currently facing are noted. Janet Rainey is also bringing the EDRS Stake Holder Committee meetings back once things calm down. At any point going forward, please send us the operational issues you may have faced, or possible improvements to the EDRS you would like to see. I know one that has been voiced is the order of boxes on the Decedent Family Screen. Janet is aware of re-arranging the order of the boxes. Again, any improvements I can take to these meetings would be greatly appreciated.

Guys and gals, please stay safe through these next few weeks. The VFDA is updating information daily as we receive it. Please take a moment each day and read those emails! Together, we will all get through this!!

Thanks,
Jay McIntyre, CFSP
VFDA First Vice President
VFDA Legislative Committee Chair
Shenandoah Valley FDA Secretary
Licensed Funeral Director
McMullen Funeral Home


March 25, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
VIRGINIA GENERAL ASSEMBLY PASSES LAW TO ALLOW FREE DEATH CERTIFICATE FOR VETERANS

Virginia Funeral Directors Association works with Delegate Terry Kilgore to continue its efforts on behalf of Virginia’s Veterans and their families

March 9, 2020 Richmond, Virginia.

HB 479, expands the list of parties eligible to request a free certified copy of a veteran’s death certificate by including any funeral director or funeral service licensee who provides funeral services for the veteran, if so requested by the surviving spouse of the veteran.

The bill, patroned by Delegate Terry Kilgore, (R) of Scott; Wise; and Norton, states: “Whenever any veteran or his survivor requires a certified copy of a vital record to obtain service-connected benefits, one copy of such record shall be provided directly to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs upon their request and one copy shall be provided to the veteran or his surviving spouse, upon request. Upon request of the surviving spouse of a veteran, the funeral director or funeral service licensee providing funeral services for the veteran may obtain one certified copy of the death certificate for service-connected benefits. No charge shall be imposed upon a veteran or his survivor for a copy related to obtaining service-connected benefits.”

“We are very pleased to have worked with Delegate Kilgore to provide this benefit to veterans and their families throughout the Commonwealth,” stated Jay McIntyre, Legislative Chairperson of the Virginia Funeral Directors Association. The bill passed both the House and Senate unanimously. Once signed by the Governor it will become law July 1, 2020.

In November 2019, the Virginia Funeral Directors Association (VFDA) reported that the Expeditionary Warfare School of Marine Corps University donated 100 handmade urns to VFDA for distribution and use for indigent veterans in Virginia. “VFDA is proud to continue our efforts to honor veterans here in Virginia,” said Jerry Andrews, President of VFDA. (Information on who to contact for the urns can be found here.)

The VFDA is the oldest association for funeral service professionals in the Commonwealth, established nearly 133 years ago on September 20, 1887. The VFDA’s mission is to serve its members by providing and promoting programs and services to enhance member’s ability to conduct their individual businesses successfully with integrity and through collective action to promote the extension and preservation of the profession; to serve the consumer by advancing the professional competency and economic welfare of its membership; by representing funeral service at all levels of government; and by enhancing the public’s understanding of the value of the funeral and the role of the funeral service practitioner.
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March 4, 2020

The Board recently conducted a periodic review of the Regulations Governing Funeral Directors and Embalmers (18VAC65-20-10 et seq.) and the Regulations for Preneed Funeral Planning (18VAC65-30-10 et seq.) and adopted proposed amendments to both sets of regulations.

Public comment forums are currently open for the proposed amendments of the Board’s regulations and are available on the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall at https://www.townhall.virginia.gov/L/viewstage.cfm?stageid=8704 (18VAC65-20-10 et seq.) until March 20, 2020 and https://www.townhall.virginia.gov/L/viewstage.cfm?stageid=8786 (18VAC65-30-10 et seq.) until April 3, 2020.

Comment can be submitted through the Regulatory Town Hall website or by email to Elaine Yeatts, elaine.yeatts@dhp.virginia.gov, or Corie Tillman Wolf, corie.wolf@dhp.virginia.gov.

Additionally, Public Hearings on these proposed regulations will convene on March 10, 2019 at 9:30 a.m. and 9:45 a.m. at the Department of Health Professions, Perimeter Center, 9960 Mayland Drive, Henrico, Virginia 23233; 2nd Floor Conference Center, Training Room #2.

Information regarding the public hearings can be found by clicking here.
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March 4, 2020

Good Wednesday members. After a couple of days of strange happenings on the floor of the House of Delegates, yesterday in a 76/18 Vote, SB 1044 passed, clearing the way for the current license structure to change. As of now, we don’t know exactly what that means, but the VFDA has made clear its desire to be a large part of the process to make this change as desirable as possible. Again, each of the three associations took a different stance…the VMA was opposed, the VFDA was neutral, and the IFHV was in support.

This legislation was patroned by Senator McPike on behalf of an Imam in Northern Virginia. The Senator did not pre-file his bill as many do. It was filed and introduced on January 17. The VFDA was made aware of the bill on January 20. The likelihood is that it was handled in this way so as to not let it see the light of day ahead of time. The Imam asked Senator McPike to carry the bill based on their belief that due to their faith, a funeral directors only license should be an option, because they do not embalm, or prepare the remains of their deceased in the same manner as other religions. This legislation used a loophole left open after the license was changed to its current status in the early 1970s. The loophole exposed is based on Virginia allowing a courtesy card to funeral directors in neighboring states, to practice as a funeral director only. As such, Virginia never stopped allowing folks to serve as just a funeral director, they just didn’t issue those licenses to those in Virginia after this change.

As this change proceeds, we have worked with the Senator to ensure that this big change is handled as appropriately as possible. We want to have a seat at the table when the terms are discussed. Much like the casket bill of last year, this change was going to happen…it was just a matter of when. While there is much opposition to the change, there is also a large amount of support. We understand that in some areas of the state staffing issues are not a prevalent as in other areas. Because of the polarized nature of this issue, the VFDA remained neutral. Many of the Senators and Delegates asked Angie Bezik our lobbyist about our neutral position. She explained that our membership is split on the issue. While we did not survey every member, we closely listen to our members and felt that a neutral stance most accurately represented the feelings of our entire membership.

Some of you as members are upset with this change. I want to commend you for reaching out as individuals to your local representation. I think when you look at the list of those who voted in opposition, you can see many who were willing to listen to their constituents. Some perhaps in the list of those who voted in favor, chose not to listen to those of you called and spoke in opposition, or chose to listen to just those who called and spoke in favor. I also want to issue a challenge to you. We feel like we need more voices who are willing to participate in our legislative committee. If you feel like that is something you want to do, please reach out to the VFDA. Now is the time for our incoming president, Marty White to set his committees, and we would like to see some new faces, who want to do more than just have a name on a committee list.

We also ask that if you have an opinion about what you do or do not want to see with this change, you send them our way. One in particular already on our radar, is the desire of many to include in this change that someone holding a funeral directors only license, not have the ability to serve as a manager of record. Ideas like that are what we need to hear.

Thanks,

Jay McIntyre, CFSP
VFDA First Vice President
VFDA Legislative Committee Chair
Shenandoah Valley FDA Secretary
Licensed Funeral Director
McMullen Funeral Home

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February 7, 2020

Good Friday Morning. I have to admit, this current General Assembly session, I’ve been somewhat remiss in keeping everyone updated on legislation, but I will catch you up in the information below.

There are four bills related specifically to the funeral industry. These are: HB479 (Kilgore), HB641 (Hurst), HB666 (Mullin), SB1066 (McPike), and SB1070 (Dunnavant).

The VFDA has one piece of legislation this session, which Delegate Kilgore generously agreed to patron. The bill clarifies and simplifies the ability for the family of a veteran to receive a free copy of a Death Certificate. The current law allows for the family to receive a free copy, but they have to request it with a letter to the state health department or a stop at the local health department to obtain it. Not all local offices are aware of this, and if they are aware, when printed, the words “for veteran benefit use only” are printed on the copy. Additionally, per Director Janet Rainey, it is printed on “plain” paper as opposed to “safety paper”. As currently amended, the bill will allow funeral directors to obtain the free copy on behalf of the family, removes the “for veteran benefit use only” language and will be printed on safety paper. This would allow for usage of the DC in any manner, not just veteran related uses. This bill has passed the House unanimously and has been communicated to the Senate and was referred to the Committee on Education and Health.

Delegate Hurst’s HB641 is a further re-working of the casket bills from the 2019 session. After the July 2018 Meeting of the State Board, which allowed for anyone to sell caskets at need, not just a funeral service licensee, the VFDA worked with Senator Reeves and Delegate Orrock to ensure the language protected the sale of caskets preneed. The goal of this bill is to change that. In discussion with Delegate Christ Hurst, a constituent felt the current law did not protect the consumer and asked him to introduce the proposed legislation. VFDA disagrees with his position hoping to work with him to strike his bill. VFDA explained how preneed works in the funeral profession and was able to work with him to include language that would require those selling preneed caskets to comply with all the same rules and regulations funeral service licensees must comply with regarding the trusting of money taken for a preneed sale. Failure to do so would subject the seller to penalties in VA Code for practicing without a license.

I tend to believe, though I hope not, that we are going to face the same issues North Carolina faced when the money was spent by the consumer, and the product was never delivered. Many families were forced to buy a second casket at the time of death. Time will tell. The bill passed committees and the House unanimously and has been communicated to the Senate and referred to Senate Education and Health Committee.

HB666 from Delegate Mullin expands the definition of a “dead human body”. Currently, the body must remain intact to be considered a dead human body. This changes the definition to include found body parts, separated from the entire body. In discussion with Delegate Mullin, he explained that as a prosecutor he knew of a case where a woman did not face all the charges she should have in the death of her child because of the condition of the body when it was found. He says this eliminates that issue. As of Wednesday of this week, HB666 has passed Health, Welfare and Institutions sub and full committees and was referred to House Courts of Justice Committee, Criminal Subcommittee. We anticipate there will be no issue passing and being communicated to the Senate.

SB1044 is patroned by Senator McPike on behalf on an Imam in the Muslim community in Northern Virginia. This bill revisits the issue of the license. Currently anyone who receives a license in Virginia is a Funeral Service Licensee, which is both funeral director and embalmer. This bill would change how the license is routinely granted in Virginia. The bill requires the Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers to fast track promulgation of regulations for the funeral directors’ license to be split or whole, to accommodate religions who do choose to embalm. In their research to bring the legislation, it was discovered that the state board never fully closed this loophole in the law, and still to this day could have granted a funeral director only license, an embalmer only license, or the current funeral service licensee combined license. The VFDA stood neutral on this legislation because our membership is split on its merits and viability. The Virginia Morticians Association was against this bill. The IFHV spoke in favor of the bill during the committee meeting last week, but did so in such a way that the patron stepped back to the microphone and lashed out at them for their handling of the matter. Scroll down to see the January 31, 2020 update below which includes the video coverage of these proceedings. It is likely that despite this testimony, the outcome would have been the same; however, I personally feel it did not reflect well on our profession. VFDA will work hand in hand with the board during this process to make this regulations as desirable as possible. HB1044 has passed from the floor of the Senate and will be communicated to the House of Delegates.

SB1070 changes the ability to bury cremated remains of pets with humans in cemeteries. Most every funeral director has served a family who has asked that a pet be buried with their loved one, which was not legal by definition. This bill would allow the cremated remains of pets to be legally interred in the same grave as a human being. Now, if the bill passes and the family asks if they can put the remains of a special pet in the casket you can tell them yes. The bill has passed the Senate and will be communicated to the House of Delegates.

In addition to the bills directly affecting this profession of ours, there are many social agenda bills that affect every business in Virginia. There are at least five bills trying to raise the minimum wage in Virginia. They range from $8.50 to $10.10, and go into effect anywhere from July 1, 2020 to January 1, 2021. This sets the stage for next year raising the minimum to $12 or $15. As owners and managers, be very mindful of this legislation. Additionally, there are many labor bills that include mandated benefits for employees upon the business owner. Each of these items on their own may not concern a business owner; however, the combined cost of all of these sorts of bills passing will be significant.

While there are many others, the other big piece of legislation lingering is raising the death tax. While some have appropriately created business succession plans, others should watch this closely. I don’t think I have seen an exact rate increase, but the thought is that tax rates could be raised to near the levels seen in the 1970s. While this may only matter to a few owners, I would strongly suggest that this be closely monitored as well. Reaching out on these issues to your House and Senate members who represent you and those you have relationships with is imperative. It may not change some outcomes, but they can never say you didn’t tell them it would negatively affect you and your families.

We continue working on doctor signups with EDRS. We have not been given a new date, we are still working daily to get more and more doctors on board. Please understand, and I have told several funeral directors this over the course of the past month… just because the date was extended, doesn’t mean that doctors don’t have to sign up. It just means that they can be late to the party without fear of penalty. Many of you have been critical through this entire process, and at this point it is what it is… but also understand, doctors still have to get signed up. I have kept a running list on my desk of practices reaching out to me after the original cutoff… at times I’ve had as many as 7 or 8 practices trying to get signed up. So we are working on it. It may not be as fast as you would like for it to happen, but we are continuing to work.

We have spoken with the Office of Vital Records’ Janet Rainey recently and were told that she will reconstitute the EDRS Workgroup to continue efforts to improve the process. She anticipates the next meeting will be in April. This is great news as we have not had a meeting since April of 2018.

The following documents are a breakdown of all the bills I referenced in this letter. The list is quite long.
VFDA Priority Monitored Billsthis link will download a Word document
Labor Billsthis link will download an Excel spreadsheet

Thanks
Jay McIntyre, CFSP
VFDA First Vice President
VFDA Legislative Committee Chair
Shenandoah Valley FDA Secretary
Licensed Funeral Director

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February 6, 2020

Federal Trade Commission is Now Reviewing the Funeral Rule and Has Issued a Request for Comment

You have 60 days to respond to the Federal Trade Commission inquiry concerning possible amendments to the Funeral Industry Practices Rule (“The Funeral Rule”).

The Commission has requested that in commenter’s replies to the Commission’s questions, they provide any available evidence, including empirical analyses, that supports their position. To successfully file a comment, file your comment online. Write “Funeral Rule Regulatory Review, 16 CFR Part 453, Project No. P034410” on your comment.
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January 31, 2020

The atmosphere in Richmond has been tense with the shift in majority in both houses, seasoned staff being relocated from traditional roles (as provided in detail in our election update) and the slow start to the session leading to some very long nights in committees to push bills through the process. The nights will get longer as many committees are reporting and referring bills to Senate Finance and House Appropriations for the vetting that should have been done in subcommittees and full committees.

There are many new members who have become Committee and Subcommittee Chairs. Some are getting their sea legs quickly, while other struggle to move through the docket efficiently. We suspect a little more time will solve for those issues.

Our own legislation, patroned by Delegate Terry Kilgore, initially met with aversion by OVR’s Janet Rainey. She provided DLS with a Fiscal Impact Statement for HB479 in the amount of $180,050.00. However; it ended up not needing a budget amendment. We accepted amendments to the bill that allowed survivors of the veteran decedent to be able to get one free death certificate as well. A simple, technical fix.

Linked below is a list of all the bills related to both cemetery and funeral home activities, or in the section of Code in which some of our laws exist:
VFDA Priority Bill Tracking
HB479

Senator McPike’s bills was amended in Committee last night to send to the Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers for promulgation of the new regulations for separate licensing. You can watch the testimony in the video below. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the VFDA office.

SB1044 Patroned by Senator McPike Funeral Service License

SB1044 is patroned by Senator McPike on behalf on an Imam in the Muslim community in Northern Virginia. This bill revisits the issue of the license. Currently anyone who receives a license in Virginia is a Funeral Service Licensee, which is both funeral director and embalmer. This bill would change how the license is routinely granted in Virginia. The bill requires the Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers to fast track promulgation of regulations for the funeral directors’ license to be split or whole, to accommodate religions who do choose to embalm. In their research to bring the legislation, it was discovered that the state board never fully closed this loophole in the law, and still to this day could have granted a funeral director only license, an embalmer only license, or the current funeral service licensee combined license. The VFDA stood neutral on this legislation because our membership is split on its merits and viability. The Virginia Morticians Association was against this bill. The IFHV spoke in favor of the bill during the committee meeting last week, but did so in such a way that the patron stepped back to the microphone and lashed out at them for their handling of the matter. It is likely that despite this testimony, the outcome would have been the same; however, it did not reflect well on our profession. VFDA will work hand in hand with the board during this process to make this regulations as desirable as possible. HB1044 has passed from the floor of the Senate and will be communicated to the House of Delegates.

Posted by Virginia Funeral Directors Association (VFDA) on Thursday, February 6, 2020

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DeathCertificatesAndEDR01102020

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January 8, 2020

Happy New Year Members! I hope everyone had a safe and happy Christmas and a very enjoyable New Year’s celebration. We finally made it to the full participation part of EDRS… but not really. I want to let you know of a couple of changes still in the works regarding mandatory participation.

First, the law as written is in effect. Doctors should be participating in Virginia by now. As we all know, some have not chosen to do so. As a result of less than 100% of the medical certifiers in Virginia being on board, the Division of Vital Records has chosen to allow a grace period for further sign ups to occur. We have heard anywhere from 30 to 45 days which lands somewhere between January 31 and February 15. As such, we still ask that you continue getting doctors on board, because you can still use the text of the law in your favor. This grace period doesn’t mean that they don’t have to get signed up. It just says that they have a little more time to do so without penalty.

I know some of you have reached a boiling point with this issue and the folks who oversee it. Please understand, we as a committee and as an association have not been misleading you. We are still somewhat in the dark as to how this grace period will end and what will happen when it does. I want to remind you that in the December 2019 newsletter from the Board of Medicine, it did tell the doctors that they had to sign up. I will attach the clip from page 7 of the newsletter for your reference as well.

Again, please continue to notify doctors of the change. This does not mean the law is no longer there. It is still in place, and doctors still have to get signed up. They just have a little longer to do so now. As always, we are still working in the background on this matter, as I signed up two groups yesterday (January 7) and I have two more groups to work on today. Eventually, this will all be over and full usage of the EDRS will be the norm and when everyone is using it, we will all sit back and ask why we met so much resistance and why it took so long for us to get here!

Resources:
December 2019 Board of Medicine Newsletter
Doctor’s Office Letter

Thanks,
Jay McIntyre, CFSP
VFDA First Vice President
VFDA Legislative Committee Chair
Shenandoah Valley FDA Secretary
Licensed Funeral Director
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January 8, 2020

Good Morning Members. As some of you have already seen, House Bill 641, carried by delegate Chris Hurst has been shared by many in our profession. We as a Legislative Committee and as an association need your help with this bill. We need for you to reach out to either the VFDA or this committee, or directly to Delegate Hurst and his staff. WE DO NOT SUPPORT THIS BILL!!

During the 2019 General Assembly Session, this very same issue was addressed in legislation carried by Delegate Orrock and Senator Reeves. This references the decision made by the Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers at their July 2018 meeting that allows for the sale of caskets by anyone. The VFDA, then President Larry Spiaggi, lobbyist Angie Bezik, and the Staff of the Independent Funeral Homes of Virginia sat down in a meeting with both patrons of the bill and re-worded the language to make it FTC Funeral Rule compliant.

When it came before committee, the questions were asked about why this was an issue, and one committee member even referenced Costco.com and Amazon.com and their funeral supply sections. Larry spoke on behalf of the bill, saying that VFDA supported it, and that the bill ensures consumer protection with regard to preneed monies. When explaining to the members of the committee that maintaining the requirement to be a funeral service licensee to sell funeral merchandise on the preneed side, kept the safeguards already in place for the consumer concerning qualification for Medicaid. This bill passed committee and the full House and Senate with a unanimous bi-partisan vote.

Now, HB641 completely undoes the work we did last year. This new language allows for ANYONE to create contracts and sell merchandise preneed. We cannot support this bill in any way. The consumer protections we kept in place last year, are completely undone with this bill. In this scenario, if someone does not properly trust the money when paying for merchandise, as it would be correctly handled through a funeral home preneed contract, could very easily lose not only their money, but their ability to qualify for Medicaid. We protected that most important part of preneed last year, and we certainly do not want to see that changed this year.

As to the section about funeral homes not having to store third-party caskets on a pre-need basis, this is already addressed in the FTC funeral rule.

Please, either reach out to Delegate Hurst and his staff, or to the VFDA and the Legislative Committee so that we can work promptly to remove this bill!

Thanks
Jay McIntyre, CFSP
VFDA First Vice President
VFDA Legislative Committee Chair
Shenandoah Valley FDA Secretary
Licensed Funeral Director
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January 1, 2020

Happy New Year Members!! I hope everyone had a safe and happy Christmas and a very enjoyable New Year’s celebration.

We finally made it to the full participation part of EDRS! Raise your hand if all the doctors in your area have signed up… I’ll wait! You of course know I’m kidding, knowing that we continue to face resistance by some. Less resistance than in days gone by, but still meeting some in isolated practices.

As I mentioned in my last letter, and even the ones before that, now is the time we need to start using all the tools at our disposal. The VFDA and this profession as a whole have been nice for far too long. And to quote Bill Engvall “nice stopped at midnight!!” Literally and figuratively. It’s time for funeral directors to start recommending that the families we serve file a complaint of unprofessional conduct against a doctor who won’t participate in the EDRS. It is time for funeral directors to start calling the Board of Medicine office and complaining to them as well. I have left a message with the Board of Medicine, who chose not to call me back. The same goes for the Executive Director of the Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers.

My suggestion to you as a course of action would be this. Search for the doctor’s name in the EDRS. If you cannot find their name in the listing, call the office and ask for the office manager. Tell them that the doctor must be enrolled and participating in the system as of January 1, 2020. If they are willing and not resistant to getting signed up, offer your help, or call the VFDA and we can help them as well. Keep in mind, that we as an association cannot field all calls and get everyone signed up, so please help the doctors if you can. If they resist, do not print them a paper death certificate copy, as it will not be accepted by the Health Department. The ONLY paper death certificate copies allowed after the first of the year, will be the ones with dates of death prior to January 1.

Again, we have cooperated nicely for a long enough time. You, the funeral director have been responsible for much of the leg work of the system. But, we can all count our blessings that those days are quickly drawing to a close. Let’s finish strong and eagerly anticipate when all this headache is just a thing of the past! Happy New Year!!!

Thanks,

Jay McIntyre, CFSP
VFDA First Vice President
VFDA Legislative Committee Chair
Shenandoah Valley FDA Secretary
Licensed Funeral Director
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