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Easing mortuary licensing requirements would relieve funeral staff shortages, says bill sponsor

It’s well known that worker shortages are affecting many aspects of everyday life.

Less well known, perhaps, is that worker shortages are also affecting many aspects of everyday … death.

Rep. John Huot (DFL-Rosemount) knows this, because he’s hearing from both large and small rural funeral business owners who can’t find enough licensed mortuary professionals to hire.

“There are mom-and-pop shops that are not going to make it because they cannot get staff,” he said.

Under most circumstances, current law allows only licensed individuals to take charge of a dead human body or remove it from the place of death.

Huot sponsors HF1888, which would allow unlicensed individuals operating under the supervision of a licensed mortician or funeral director to perform those tasks.

The House Health Finance and Policy Committee laid the bill over Monday, as amended, for possible omnibus bill inclusion.

During the state’s emergency COVID-19 orders, Huot said the Department of Health licensing requirements for removing and transporting dead bodies were lifted to deal with the large coronavirus death toll.

“We had no problems with this at all,” said Huot, which he said is proof the licensing requirements were not needed for these tasks to be done safely.

The bill would also permit an unlicensed individual to arrange, direct, or supervise a funeral, graveside service, or memorial service, if properly trained by a licensed mortuary supervisor.

Todd Anderson, owner of Johnson Williams Funeral Car Service, said current restrictions cause unnecessary delays.

He said the bill would be “an immense help” to grieving family members and loved ones who are waiting longer than they need to during a very stressful time.

However, Brian Dingmann, co-owner of Dingmann Funeral Care, said the bill would allow unlicensed individuals to practice mortuary science, which would endanger public health and safety.

“By carving out unlicensed personnel from the jurisdiction of the Department of Health, there’s no way to prohibit them from engaging in unprofessional conduct or unethical behavior,” he said.

And if there is a complaint against an unlicensed individual, he said the Department of Health would have no authority to take corrective action.

Sen. Mark Koran (R-North Branch) sponsors the companion, SF1847, which awaits action by the Senate Health and Human Services Finance and Policy Committee.

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