Jones Condemns Changes to Cemetery Reform

SPRINGFIELD, IL – Illinois State Senator Emil Jones III (D–Chicago) voiced his outrage at changes made to his proposed reform to the Cemetery Oversight Act (COA), Senate Bill 1853. Earlier this legislative session, Senator Jones passed Senate Bill 1853, which reduces the amount of regulation on smaller not-for-profit cemeteries. These small cemeteries are usually family burial grounds or owned by churches.

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Opponents of Senate Bill 1853 filed Senate Bill 669, which would diminish important provisions in Jones’ legislation by reinstating many of the burdensome measures in the original COA.

The COA charged smaller cemeteries exorbitant fees, fines, and penalties that forced some to close their gates. The legislation provides law enforcement officials with a procedure for dealing with situations like the one that occurred at Burr Oak Cemetery in 2009, when at least 300 bodies were illegally dug up and discarded so that their gravesites could be resold. Thousands of other bodies buried at the cemetery, including infants, have not been accounted for by their survivors.

“Senate Bill 669 dissimilates the tireless efforts that all interested parties agreed on to create legislation to keep cemetery gates open,” Jones said. “The parties opposing my reform came up with their proposal without working with stake holders.”

The proposed legislation in Senate Bill 669 contains new provisions that retain oppressive measures in the original COA that are burdensome to small cemeteries.

“This lack of transparency is a slap in the face to the political process,” Jones said.

The legislation imposes fees for licensing, securing exceptions, and database entry at considerably higher levels than in Jones’ proposal. SB 669 requires all cemetery workers and independent contractors to become licensed with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR), costing cemeteries thousands in underline costs.

“I am outraged at the devious manner the opposing parties took to instill provisions on the COA,” Jones added.

SB 669 also requires cemeteries to open caskets and view remains which impose legal obligations on cemeteries that they cannot fulfill. The legislation also allows IDFPR to contract third parties to enforce the provisions in the COA, which will cost IDFPR additional funds when the state is already in dark financial times.

“The proposals in SB 669 will cause many cemeteries from around the state to abandon the land and loved ones will no longer have the ability to visit grave plots,” Jones said. “The appalling nature of these back door politics shows that we have a long way to go in removing the corrupt practices in our state.”

“The legislation doesn’t even give cemeteries owners a hearing before adverse action is taken against them, which contradicts the entire legality of the legislation.” Jones said.
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