That’s the question a member of the Missouri State Board asked of his staff last Wednesday during a discussion of controversial examination procedures. Prior to the NPS fiasco, the answer to that question would have been “the Board is”. While SB1 (appropriately) continued to vest preneed supervision in the State Board, the new law also vests concurrent authorities in other state bodies.

From state to state, preneed supervision is assigned to either elected politicians, appointed agency directors or industry boards/commissions. As the Missouri Board was reminded this past week, the criticism made of vesting preneed supervision in an industry board often includes the characterization of having “put the fox in charge of the chicken coop”. But the advantage of having an industry board as the preneed supervisor is the experience those industry members bring to a complicated transaction.

If the Missouri funeral industry looks east to Illinois, it will find peers regulated by an office with a Tuesday election. The Comptroller candidates who would rather transfer preneed to another state agency than wade into a crisis that offers few answers. If Missouri funeral directors then look to the west, they will see that the fate of Kansas cemetery regulation is also dependent upon Tuesday’s elections. But after a year of meetings and warnings that changes are coming, the Kansas Secretary of State election could mean a new direction (or no direction at all).

Death care operators are often frustrated when regulators take actions that demonstrate a lack of understanding of the business (or worse yet, a misunderstanding of applicable laws). The risk to both the death care operator and consumer is when the elected preneed regulator allows politics to influence the reform process. Elected regulators may pose the greatest challenge to developing effective preneed supervision, and then maintaining that system.

While Missouri funeral homes may be frustrated by the past year’s changes, the Missouri reform process has been slow and measured in part because the Division of Professional Registration is contemplating its role when someone asks “Who’s the Boss?” In the future, effective preneed supervision must be a shared responsibility.