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Legislature 2004

Bill consolidates cemetery, funeral rules under board

Today is the 59th day of the 60-day session.

By Times staff writer, Associated Press
Published April 29, 2004

TALLAHASSEE - Oversight of cemeteries and funeral services would consolidate under one state board, and those industries would face stricter regulations under a bill the Senate passed unanimously Wednesday.

The House companion (HB 323) could be heard as soon as today.

For years, lawmakers said they wanted to tighten restrictions on funeral homes and cemeteries, driven by problems such as misidentified remains or plots being sold to more than one family.

The bill (SB 528) was named after former Sen. Howard E. Futch, who died in office in 2003.

Sen. Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie, said Futch's family bought adjoining plots for the lawmaker and his wife. When Futch's daughter visited his grave, however, she found the second plot was being used by someone else, Pruitt said.

Companies that make illegal or malicious decisions regarding burial plots should have a "heavy price to pay," Pruitt said.

The new board - the Division of Funeral, Cemetery and Consumer Services - would be housed within the Department of Financial Services, which currently has joint oversight of funeral and cemetery services with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

In 2002, state auditors found the oversight didn't provide sufficient consumer protection.

The bill mandates a more solid process for identifying remains before and after they have been buried, and creates standards for sizing and assigning of grave sites. It also stiffens regulations of funeral homes and cremating facilities.

Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa, said Florida has the second largest death-care industry in the country, but ranks 42nd in its regulation of those services.

Study will assess steroid abuse in high schools

TALLAHASSEE - Abuse of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs by high school athletes will be assessed in a statewide study, with results due in time to help lawmakers craft legislation next year that would mandate random testing in all Florida schools.

Rep. Marcelo Llorente, R-Miami, said Wednesday he plans to continue pursuing a bill in 2005 that would make schools conduct steroid tests as a prerequisite for membership in the Florida High School Athletic Association.

A similar bill (HB 861) Llorente sponsored this year failed to get out of committee.

- ASSOCIATED PRESS

Budget deal frees space for KidCare enrollment

TALLAHASSEE - The 35,000 children stranded on a waiting list last month when Florida lawmakers closed enrollment in the state's subsidized health insurance program will get a chance to enroll in July under the budget deal slated for approval Friday.

The extra capacity in the popular KidCare insurance program for low-income families came as a surprise Wednesday. Lawmakers had said last month they expected to cap enrollment through June 2005. The extra dollars mean any child on the waiting list March 11, when the state stopped keeping a list, will be enrolled, said Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland.

Under the budget deal, the next chance for families to apply for the program is during an open-enrollment process in January.

- JONI JAMES

For information about legislation, call 1-800-342-1827 or 1-850-488-4371 toll-free during business hours. The Legislature's official Web site: www.leg.state.fl.us

[Last modified April 29, 2004, 01:35:43]


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