The Colorado flag hangs in the state Capitol building on June 12, 2020. (Andy Bosselman for Newsline)
When state lawmakers heard horror stories about Colorado funeral directors selling body parts and leaving human remains to mold, they got working on a bipartisan fix.
It’s contained in House Bill 22-1073, which would hand the state’s Division of Professions and Operations more power to inspect funeral homes and crematories. The Colorado Senate gave it final, unanimous approval Wednesday.
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HB-1073 came in response to “a few members of what is normally a very respectable and well-run industry (who were) not respecting the process of death and burial and were treating deceased loved ones under quite — I keep returning to the word deplorable,” Sen. Kerry Donovan, a Vail Democrat, said on the Senate floor Tuesday.
The Division of Professions and Occupations didn’t have the ability to immediately respond to complaints by inspecting the funeral home premises, so the state had to build a legal case first.
“By the time they were able to enter these facilities and inspect them, they found human remains with mold on them,” Donovan said. “They found an infant body that had decomposed to the state at which it could no longer be identified.”
She was apparently referring to allegations against former Lake County Coroner Shannon Kent, who was convicted of official misconduct in September in connection with his funeral home businesses in Leadville and Gypsum, according to The Denver Post.
“These are circumstances that are hard to imagine — that someone would think that that was the appropriate way to not only run a business, but run a business that is so important at this point of tragedy and mourning,” Donovan continued.
Another recent case involved Megan Hess and Shirley Koch, owners of Sunset Mesa Funeral Directors in Montrose, who were indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly giving people fake ashes and selling body parts.
Donovan sponsored HB-1073 in the Senate along with Sen. Don Coram, a Montrose Republican. Reps. Dylan Roberts, an Avon Democrat, and Matt Soper, a Republican from Delta, led the bill in the House of Representatives.
“This is something that we all go through, and, you know, this very day, our family is dealing with a very reputable funeral home, but not all are,” Coram said Tuesday. “This is just vital that we give this bill full consideration, and the families the respect they are due.”
The Senate voted unanimously Wednesday to pass HB-1073. The state House of Representatives voted to approve HB-1073 on Feb. 16 by a vote of 53 to 10, with one lawmaker excused. All of the no votes in the House came from Republicans, though the majority of representatives from both parties supported the bill.
No business organizations, local governments or advocacy groups formally opposed HB-1073. Supporters included the Colorado Funeral Directors Association.
HB-1073 now heads to the desk of Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, for his signature.
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