Legislature Considers Bill to License VT Crematories

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(Host) The gruesome discovery of scores of bodies near a Georgia crematory has renewed calls in Vermont to oversee the facilities.

Vermont is one of only eight states that don’t license crematories. A bill in the Legislature would require the operations to be licensed and inspected every year.

VPR’s John Dillon reports.

(Dillon) Funeral homes in Vermont are overseen by a professional licensing board. The state also conducts annual inspections to make sure regulations are followed. But Vermont’s seven crematories are not licensed and no inspections are required.

Secretary of State Deborah Markowitz’s office oversees 39 professions, including the funeral home industry. Markowitz says the Georgia case has added momentum to legislation that would put Vermont’s crematories under state review:

(Markowitz) “One of the important aspects of the regulations that we now have for funeral homes is the requirement for regular inspections. So what this law does is it brings crematory establishments into the funeral board regulatory scheme. And it would require a regular inspection of the crematory establishments.”

(Dillon) Bill Hurley chairs the Vermont Board of Funeral Service. He operates a funeral home in Bennington and says all but two crematories in Vermont are associated with funeral homes.

Hurley says there’s absolutely no evidence that crematories in Vermont have problems. But he says it’s important for the state to oversee these operations. Right now, he says, the only state oversight is for air quality issues:

(Hurley) To the best of our knowledge, we’ve never had complaints against any of them. But if we were to have complaints, there’s no way for a consumer to access some sort of a forum for whatever their issue might be, like there are for any other licensed professions.”

(Dillon) A national consumer group based in Vermont supports the crematory licensing bill. Lisa Carlson is executive director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance, based in Hinseburg. She says her group opposed an earlier version that said only a funeral director could run a crematory. She says that provision was designed to squelch competition from a low-cost crematory in Brattleboro:

(Carlson) “Now having said that¿ we think it makes good sense to license crematories just as a general protection for the public. So we are very supportive of a bill that would license crematories. We would not have been supportive of any bill that would have put too many strictures on the cremation business that would have required a funeral director, for example.”

(Dillon) The House Government Operations Committee is scheduled to take up the crematory licensing bill next week.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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