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Bill would require licensure of funeral directors in Colorado

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(The Center Square) – A bipartisan group of Colorado lawmakers are looking to increase regulations on the funeral home industry, citing recent cases of abuse.

Funeral directors, mortuary scientists, cremationists and embalmers would be required to obtain a license if Senate Bill 24-173 passes the General Assembly and is signed into law. The bill is sponsored by Sens. Dylan Roberts, D-Frisco, and Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, and Reps. Matt Soper, R-Delta, and Brianna Titone, D-Arvada.

The bill comes as a response to instances of mismanagement, fraud and mistreatment at funeral homes in the state during the past few years. Currently, the state’s Department of Regulatory Agencies regulates funeral homes and crematories. However, certification through the Colorado Funeral Directors Association, a trade group, is voluntary.

“The minimum requirement to practice funeral service in Colorado is a high school diploma or GED,” according to the association’s website. “Employment criteria will vary depending upon the employer; some funeral homes may offer on-the-job training while others require formal education from an accredited mortuary science college.”

A fact sheet provided by the legislators states the Colorado Office of Policy, Research and Regulatory Reform reviewed whether the public is being harmed by funeral service professionals to a degree where regulating the industry is warranted.

“And after an examination of numerous cases, the report concluded that it is reasonable that regulation is necessary to protect the public,” according to the fact sheet.

Last year, almost 200 improperly stored bodies were recovered from a Penrose funeral home, leading to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency determining the funeral home should be demolished. Elsewhere in the state, two individuals who ran a funeral home in Montrose were sentenced last year in a “body brokering” scheme, KKCO reported.

In addition to obtaining a license to practice, individuals working in the industry would be required to apply, pay a fee, obtain a fingerprint-based criminal history record check and not have been disciplined by another state or convicted of a qualifying crime. The bill would take effect Jan. 1, 2026.

“Colorado families continue to be victimized by our state’s lack of oversight of the funeral industry,” Roberts said in a statement announcing the bill. “This is a service that every family needs at some point and everyone should be able to trust that those who are caring for their loved ones’ remains have proper training, oversight and accountability, just like many other professions and businesses.”

A provisional license for current funeral practitioners is included in the bill. Those applicants are required to have at least 6,500 hours of work experience, served an apprenticeship of one year or longer, and pass a fingerprint-based criminal history background check. An individual holding a provisional license for at least 24 months without any disciplinary actions would qualify for full licensure.

The bill would require license holders to complete six hours of continuing education to renew their license. The legislation also would establish grounds for disciplining an applicant or a license holder.

“Families deserve to have the dignity of their deceased loved one be honored, but because Colorado lacks proper regulation, bad actors have the ability to take advantage of our citizens at a vulnerable moment in their lives,” Titone said in a statement.

The Colorado Funeral Directors Association did not immediately respond to The Center Square’s request for comment.

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