The Missouri State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors faces two hurdles to implementing SB1: disagreements over the interpretation of key provisions and informing the industry how the Board will enforce the law. These hurdles have put the Board in to a Catch 22 situation.
SB1 was drafted under the cloud of the NPS crisis. Legislators were lobbied from all sides, with positions as diametrically opposed as outlawing preneed to leaving Chapter 436 in tact. With limited assistance from the industry, legislators used the resources at hand and forged compromises. As a consequence, the law has several ambiguities, and crucial provisions can legitimately be interpreted differently. There is ample room for disagreements.
The disagreements over SB1 requirements have caused the State Board to reconsider how to best educate the industry. When contacted with SB1 questions, the Board’s staff (and website) recommends that licensees seek the advice of an attorney. This may be the appropriate ‘legal’ answer, but it is one that will frustrate the licensee. First, the advice requires the licensee to incur an expense at a time when it can be least afforded. Second, there is no assurance an attorney can provide an answer the licensee can rely upon. Some attorneys will turn to the Board’s legal staff, and it is not clear those attorneys are in a position to field questions about SB1.
As licensees, funeral directors do have a responsibility to educate themselves about the law’s requirements. We have heard this at recent Board meetings. But, before the licensee can educate himself on the law’s requirements, the State Board must be able to clearly articulate the law’s requirements. That could require weeks on most issues, if not months on other issues.