Implementing new regulatory requirements is a difficult and thankless job. Businesses hate change when it comes to government interference, and (most) regulators understand this. Accordingly, regulators typically prefer to implement incremental changes. In contrast to other industries, regulatory changes have been less frequent within the death care industry because legislators and regulators don’t understand the business. This came to an end for Missouri when NPS galvanized a legislature into re-writing the book on preneed, and then saddling the State Board with the task of implementing new mandates for licensure, oversight and enforcement.

There was no question what the State Board’s first priority under SB1 had to be: emergency rules to satisfy the new preneed licensure requirements. Until the law went into effect on August 28, 2009, the State Board lacked the authority to issue preneed licenses. But once the law went into effect, funeral homes were prohibited from selling preneed without a license. Licensing an entire industry at the stroke of midnight was beyond the Board’s limited resources.

As of February 4th, the State Board was five months into the mission, and faced a growing list of SB1 issues. Having addressed the immediate licensure issues (more or less), the Board took a step back to frame a preliminary approach to what may prove to be its top priority: financial examinations.

The State Board approved a plan that would involve an internal unit of 4 to 5 employees that would gather and monitor preneed transactions. The plan would include a period of training to develop the expertise needed to reduce the reliance on independent auditors, and thereby reduce the fees being charged to the industry.  The Board’s decision is consistent with Scenario 2 of the Small Business Impact Statement filed with its emergency fees rule.

Determining that “the money is there” has been the priority in Nebraska and Iowa, and now, has also become the priority for Kansas’ cemetery regulator. The challenge for the Missouri and Kansas regulators will be the implementation of an effective, but efficient, system of providing financial oversight to a diverse and fragmented industry.